Fame and fortune is too often achieved by the undeserving. Those who lie, claiming another’s work as their own, can swindle the public for years before anyone suspects a thing. Big Eyes, the story of American painter Margaret Keane and her slimeball plagiarist husband, is a captivating, sinister and very true tale. Brought to life beautifully by Tim Burton, the story’s strength and the powerful performances by Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz overcome the dimmer points of this altogether appealing piece.
Walter Keane, portrayed by the ferociously versatile Waltz, galivants around 1950s San Francisco, wooing women with fabricated tales of Parisian artist life. Margaret, having fled her ex-husband with just her young daughter and a stack of paintings in tow, falls hard for the charismatic Walter. Before long, the two start a new chapter as married artists, Margaret painting her trademark big-eyed children and Walter with his… wait a minute, does this guy even paint?
Keane is a total fraud, no more a painter than an astronaut. He is, however, undeniably savvy when it comes to networking and self-promotion. Once he weds Margaret and makes her a Keane, he begins parading his wife’s eye-catching canvases out to the masses, claiming the works are his. Soon enough, America had gone crazy for the big eyes, not suspecting for a second that the signature on the bottom was not Walter’s.
Amy Adams delivers a showstopping, heartbreaking performance as Margaret Keane. Trapped in a lie and confined to a studio to mass produce the now world-famous Keane images, her situation is a tragic one. Women in this day were treated with an inequality so staggering, even the notion that the wife could be the true artist behind the Big Eyes was scoffed at. So powerless under the the rule of her husband, Margaret suffers years before the whole illusion comes to a litigious finish.
The film, despite bright visuals and performances, is dulled by a lacklustre script. Once the stakes are established, a great length of time is spent banally discussing the lie that’s been weaved. Another issue is the Keanes’ daughter. While younger Jane delivers her lines with an amusing deadpan, the teenage Jane overacts, diminishing some crucial scenes in the middle on the film.
Sharp viewers will notice some of our city’s scenery in the Vancouver-shot Big Eyes, as well as the appearance of some local thespians like Ryan Beil and David Milchard.
A gorgeous film with a compelling real-life cautionary tale, Big Eyes is a unique cinematic experience to retreat to this holiday season.
I give Big Eyes 4 raindrops.