Big Eyes Screen 10 articles

Big Eyes

2014

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  • It’s a gelatinous, tedious look at the life of San Francisco painter Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), whose conniving conman of a husband, Walter (Christoph Waltz), took credit for her paintings and attained national celebrity. The film willfully concludes that the past may be worth revising but also that it must be done through the lens of candy-colored melodrama. No room for serious contemplation of feminism or cultural iconography here.

  • [It's] an exceedingly clumsily made movie about artistic imposture, full of scenes that run into a wall rather than hit a mark, never threatening to develop a rhythm but, at best, as in Christoph Waltz’s pinball-antic courtroom scene, occasionally running rampant. The appeal of Burton is, as ever, in the art direction rather than the direction.

  • Big Eyes doesn't attempt to untangle the complicated relationship between popularity and critical acclaim, or the gendered aspects thereof, so much as it establishes and eviscerates a series of straw men—a jarring, unsatisfying gambit, given that Burton so thoroughly downplays the film's satirical elements.

  • Burton and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel make the Keanes’ glass-walled California dream house look coldly creepy, its pool casting eerie shadows on its dark walls at night. But the camerawork and direction are generally as literal-minded as the script, which is more interested in establishing the central facts of Margaret’s story than in plumbing her inner life.

  • The air of Hitchcock that drifts through these scenes is welcome: the Bay Area setting, the idea of delusion and deception, Adams’s resemblance to his heroines, the use of Krysten Ritter as a Thelma Ritter–type skeptic. But Burton might need to get further from blockbuster bloat in order to regain his formal mastery of kitsch. Right now his sense of comic portraiture is too easily mistakable for splatter painting.

  • The movie focuses on her fraught marriage to Walter Keane, a charming con artist who took credit for her work but made them both rich by knowing how to market it. Burton and the writers inspire a certain amount of sympathy for Margaret, presenting her as sincere and morally upright, but ultimately they have more in common with Walter, exploiting the subjects' unironic devotion to kitsch for condescending laughs.

  • The film is only interested in exploring how awful it is that Margaret is having the fruits of her personal creativity relinquished from her – unquestioning of whether the fame she enjoys would've ever been possible were it not for her abusive partnership with Walter. That's not to say what happened to her was a good thing, but it would've been a radical move had the film not been so quick to her defence.

  • Waltz's performance is so spectacularly bad that I really want to find a way to justify it thematically—perhaps by positing that he's trying to "act" as a correlative to the way Walter Keane "painted." But that seems like horseshit. He's just a ham, and thus miscast in a role that demands complex humanity rather than self-conscious theatrics.

  • “Art should elevate, not pander,” intones the critic; Big Eyes is somewhere in between, too entertaining to pander – it’s light-hearted rather than preachy – but too superficial to elevate. There’s a much better film to be made from this story, but I didn’t really mind.

  • "Big Eyes" is full of fascinating questions about the meaning of art, the concept of popularity, and what it means to develop a huge audience. Back to Warhol: whether or not something is seen as "good" by an expert is irrelevant if so many people like it. The cultural gatekeepers will always be apoplectic in such a situation. "Big Eyes" is not a major film from Tim Burton, and it has some tonal issues, but one can see why he was drawn to such material. In a way, it's a very personal film.

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