There is no doubt that the story of Margaret and Walter Keane deserves telling and that it is very interesting but is it worth a whole movie? The story boils down to Margaret Keane drawing the iconic “Big Eyed” children and Walter taking the credit, creating a huge empire but at the same time filling his talented wife with guilt.
Unfortunately, it seems to feel like an age before we get to the aspect of the story that is really interesting. Developing the background to the two central characters is very important but the film doesn’t really hit it’s stride until we start to see the “real” Walter Keane and the victimised Margaret.
Both Amy Adams as Margaret and Christoph Waltz as Walter do a great job with their characters. Amy Adams starts small and conveys the growth of the painter very well. The character gets stronger and the final scenes that make up act three are much better because we’ve been through the emotional journey with Adams.
This film really belongs to Waltz though. Waltz’s Walter is a strange character. Movies are full of characters which begin charming and sweet and then develop into monsters. Big Eyes is no different and Waltz plays a villain better than most. This is a different kind of villain though, not the calculating, almost cartoonish bad guy we have seen before but a much darker, monster of a man. The fact that the story is true adds that element of darkness.
Of course, you feel slightly like you have to take the movie with a pinch of salt. Waltz’s Walter begins to get more and more crazy and less like the man from the beginning of the movie. Some of his actions feel very forced and slightly exaggerated, up to the breakdown he has to start the third act and then the comical court case. His actions towards the end of the movie beg for clarification and offer a “I can’t believe that happened” mentality.
This also makes for the most entertaining part of the story. The court case and the actions of both the hero and villain of this true tale make for a compelling end. It is funny, tragic and in the culmination of the story, quite tense. It also ends in a satisfactory way, although one that begs for more answers than offers resolutions.
It is also very telling that only moments of this film convey the Tim Burton approach. At moments, Adam’s Margaret begins to see Big Eyes everywhere and the film presents a Tim Burton charm. The rest falls slightly flat though and doesn’t have that unique aesthetic that you would associate with the iconic director.
That doesn’t take away from the overall story, just feels like a missed opportunity. The story doesn’t particularly need a gothic style or a colourful, bizarre design but when you see the name Burton at the beginning of the film, you expect something quite unique and Big Eyes plays it safe.
Overall, Big Eyes has a very interesting story at it’s centre. Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz play the two central characters very well and the film builds to a great third act which sums up the whole, bizarre tale. Unfortunately, some of the earlier moments fall flat and it takes too long to develop the movie to the more interesting aspects.
Rating – 3
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