I’m sure you’ve seen some advertisements for this film. It’s being billed as one woman’s courageous effort to take down a man who was taking credit for her work. She’s billed as a strong, independent woman who sticks up for herself in the face of adversity. Except, it’s not really that at all. Maybe for a few minutes it is, but that’s as close to false advertisement as it gets. This movie is something else entirely and that something else is not that great.
All her life, Margaret (Amy Adams) has been painting pictures of young children with the biggest of eyes. All her work was inspired by her daughter Jane (Delaney Raye) and that work is what kept her sane in her first, ugly marriage to an abusive man. After deciding to leave him, Margaret and Jane move to San Francisco where they meet up with her old friend DeeAnn (Krysten Ritter). Attempting to make money for herself and daughter, Margaret begins selling her work at the market downtown, where she meets an unusually charming and curious man.
Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz) is a very eccentric painter who spent much of his life painting in the streets of Paris. He’s a single man who can sell an Eskimo a block of ice, which makes his interest in Margaret all the more interesting. The two hit it off and in no time, they end up getting married to make things easier on all of them. When trying to sell Margaret’s art one day, Walter passes it off as his own and thus starts a long history of his taking credit for her work. Female artists are harder to appreciate, so he kept her painting and he did the selling, which only made Margaret feel worse.
Big Eyes focuses heavily on the fact that the eyes are the window to the soul, which means that Burton‘s lens doesn’t reveal too much. The film misses the mark in numerous amounts of ways, starting with the fact that this project feels weird for Tim Burton, a man who attracts weird quite often. The pacing, the music, the writing, and even some of the performances just feel strange. Not to mention the fact that there’s no rationale in this film and everything jumps from one point to the next.
Amy Adams has long been a favorite actress of mine and she has a way of rescuing films from their depths. With Big Eyes, Adams certainly has her moments. Her 50’s get-up and approach to life at that time is perfect for the time and her portrayal of a distressed wife is great, at times. Other times, Adam’s character is just moping about and doesn’t do anything for herself. She’s essentially a doormat and everyone walks all over her and she never says a word. It’s hard to rally behind her weak character and take an interest in her, when she doesn’t have anything interesting to say or do on-screen.
Christoph Waltz, by now a household name, is known for that impeccable diction and his grandiose gestures. It’s what won him two Oscars, but he had help. Quentin Tarantino‘s writing in Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained is lightyears better than the writing in this film. Waltz’s charm works in his advantage as he’s selling paintings, but his anger and rage just seems out-of-place. He becomes over-exaggerated in his actions and everything he begins to do becomes obnoxious. His chemistry, or lack thereof, with Adams is awkward and his character becomes a caricature by the end of the film.
Tim Burton films are usually quite easy to spot. This film isn’t an odd-looking animation, so one would assume that this live-action film is darkly comic. There are certainly some comedic aspects to this film, but there’s very little darkness to be found. Burton’s flare pops up every now and then, but he resorts to a style like that in Catch Me if You Can and everything feels off. He likes to jump from one event to the next with no explanation and this “dark tale” is accompanied by a lighthearted score by Danny Elfman. Everything is just handled too carelessly and nothing ever feels authentic about this story.
Writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski have a bizarre script on their hands, as the flow of the film is driven by their questionable dialogue. Christoph Waltz gets all the juicy dialogue, naturally, but none of it really fits in with the story. His character is so out there that he’s almost unbelievable and Amy Adams barely speaks an entire paragraph throughout the whole film. The story lazily moves from one problem to the next and there’s never a sense of urgency or despair, despite the fact that we’re supposed to believe that Adam’s character is living in fear.
Big Eyes is just a run-of-the-mill film that doesn’t really bring anything to the film conversation. There’s nothing too exciting about this film and there’s really nothing Burton-esque about this film either. Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz both have their moments, but their writing and the progression of the story do them a great disservice. This film is a bland interpretation of what should be an intriguing story, but there’s very little to keep you interested in what’s happening and you just end up disappointed with the effort from everyone involved. The best thing that this film offers up is the song “Big Eyes”, sung wonderfully by Lana Del Rey.
Big Eyes Trailer