In San Francisco in the 1950s, Margaret was a woman trying to make it on her own after leaving her husband with only her daughter and her paintings. She meets gregarious ladies’ man and fellow painter Walter Keane in a park while she was struggling to make an impact with her drawings of children with big eyes. The two quickly become a pair with outgoing Walter selling their paintings and quiet Margaret holed up at home painting even more children with big eyes. But Walter’s actually selling her paintings as his own. A clash of financial success and critical failure soon sends Margaret reeling in her life of lies. With Walter still living the high life, Margaret’s going to have to try making it on her own again and re-claiming her name and her paintings.
“All these copies… you’re like Warhol!
Tim Burton is known for the surreal-like film “Edward Scissorhands” and other strange curiosities such as “Beetlejuice” and “Mars Attack!“. This time he follows a more realistic path with this biographical film “Big Eyes” about the sad life of Margaret Keane. This artist from the early 60s is responsible for countless families to have several paintings (or copies) hanging in their house, with on it a sad child with a pair of unreal looking big eyes (usually with a tear). At first glance, this was just tacky “Holly Hobbie” -like teen art. But the truth is astonishing and brilliant at the same time. All the paintings of Margaret Keane were allegedly created by her husband Walter, who’s a smooth talker but wasn’t as smooth with a brush. That’s the baffling part of the whole story. The brilliant part is how this show-off managed to set up the merchandising and turned this “teen room portraits” into a commercial success. In terms of marketing, he was a forerunner. But at the same time he turned his wife into a individual without any identity or personality. A housewife trapped in a dusty attic where she produces paintings like a conveyer belt and signed them with the surname of her husband. Eventually, you may consider this as the most subtle art theft of all time.
The participation of Amy “American Hustle” Adams as the shy, introverted and somewhat naive Margaret and Christoph “Django Unchained” Waltz as the cunning charmer Walter Keane, is a successful combination. Both the spirit of the 50s and 60s as the scenery is conveyed brilliantly :the typical neighborhoods with their close-cropped lawns, the beautiful vintage cars, the fashion of those days and also the naivety in a sterile and perfect looking family-society. Fortunately for Walter the word “emancipation” hadn’t been invented yet and women at the time were neatly classified in the “home-garden-kitchen tool” section. Would he perform this stunt in modern times, he probably would be the one walking around with unreal big eyes (blue that is). Amy Adams is perfect for this role as the fragile and submissive wife (who radiates an “Marilyn Monroe” aura at times) but is also more emancipated than one would think. At that time it wasn’t so obvious for a woman to leave her husband. Schultz waltzed through the film like a big smiling Dick Van Dyke. Being a shrewd businessman he builds an empire by abusing his wife’s talent.
My rating 6/10
Links : IMDB