DVD Review: Big Eyes

big-eyes-dvd-cover-00Tim Burton is a creator of alternate universes, from “Batman” to “Nightmare before Christmas” and “Beetlejuice.” It’s hard to believe, then, that the world he depicts in “Big Eyes” is not a story plucked from his imagination.

“Big Eyes” is the bizarre, true tale of artist Margaret Keane, the painter of what were known as the “big eye children” in the 1950s and ’60s.

Margaret, played by the reliably great Amy Adams, was a naïve young artist who took her daughter away from her first husband and relocated to San Francisco, making a living by painting flowers on furniture.

She meets Walter Keane, a man who says he is an artist who once studied in Paris and paints only Parisian street scenes from his memory. They quickly marry, after Margaret’s ex-husband threatens to take their child from her because she is a single mother.

At first, Walter, played by a manic Christoph Waltz, is generous and kind, sweeping Margaret off her feet. But when Margaret’s big eye paintings become in-demand and his do not, Walter convinces Margaret to let people think he is the artist of the paintings, because no one would take a female artist seriously.

She begins cranking out painting after painting in a small, cramped studio, which her husband won’t let anyone enter. Walter, a born hustler, manages to befriend celebrities such as Natalie Wood, Andy Warhol and Joan Crawford, who are photographed with the paintings.

Soon, Walter and the paintings become world famous, and Margaret becomes a frightened shell of herself. At a gallery opening, Margaret is asked if she is a painter. She replies, “I don’t know.”

Despite the bug-eyed paintings’ success, the art world that Walter wants so badly to belong, shuns him. When Margaret finally tells a radio interviewer that she is the real artist, a curator played by Jason Schwarzman says, “Who would want to take credit for these?”

Adams plays her role with subtlety, using her own big eyes to emote happiness, sadness and, finally, rage, as Walter’s lies begin to unravel and he finally gets what he deserves. Two-time Academy Award-winner Waltz is magnetic and terrifying at the same time.

In Burton’s version of the twisted tale, the characters and colors are as exaggerated as Margaret’s paintings. “Big Eyes” is a fascinating, often funny, story that you may have a hard time believing.


Taylor Bigler Mace

Taylor Bigler Mace

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Taylor covers sports and maritimes for the Islander. As a native of Texas, she is an unapologetic Dallas Cowboys fan. [email protected]
Taylor Bigler Mace

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