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Big Eyes – Review


Release Date: 25 December 2014 [USA]
Director: Tim Burton
Writer: Scott Alexander - Larry Karaszewski
Cast: Amy Adams - Christoph Waltz - Krysten Ritter



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Posted March 23, 2015 by

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Big Eyes Review:

Tim Burton is the kind of person I like to think I can get, yet who would be able to disconcert you when you least expect it. I loved the work he was involved in with pieces like ‘Edward Scissorhands’, ‘Mars Attacks!’ or ‘Big Fish’, but it felt like his fame had to become something grossly commercial afterwards, with too much outbidding of his own fabric : I would of course mean by that ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, ‘Alice in Wonderland’, and, at last but not at least ‘Sweeney Todd : The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’, one of the two movies I left the theater during the projection. After what I still call a traumatic event, I decided that Burton was just a sell-out and a traitor to the magic I loved in his early years.

And then came along ‘Big Eyes’, and I have to admit that I became curious for the only reason that it was involving a “true story” : the life of Margaret Keane (Amy Adams, from ‘Man of Steel’, ‘The Master’, ‘Catch Me If You Can’), married to Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz, from ‘The Zero Theorem’, ‘Water for Elephants’, ‘The Green Hornet’), and Margaret’s ordeal as she would be forced to paint pictures that would become a phenomenal cultural success, in order for Walter to get all of the credit. A secret that lasted for over a decade, that the real Walter Keane never admitted of his life, that started with a simple tiny white lie, to make a sell of a painting that would never have been bought if it was a woman’s creation in the first place. Good God almighty… Burton is trying something else than a fantastic story to make a film out of it ?? Well that must be worthy of something, right ?

First surprise, as it is clearly a Burton movie, it’s not burtonesque, if you are willing to forget the use of some colors or framings, from time to time, that are typical of him, and the first sequence when you get to see a suburb area with straight in line houses, with nice lawns, which tends to be a wink to the viewer to remind him that, yes, this is a Burton movie. Other than that, it was almost awkward to think that anybody else could have directed the film, and, oddly enough, I think this is a pretty good reason to like it even more as a Burton movie… For the first time in his life, Burton is actually trying to tell us a story, a real one moreover, without trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. And man isn’t this nice !

The only cloud in the horizon, though, would be Christoph Waltz, because unlike Burton who had stop to pull a Burton, Christoph Waltz is always, always pulling a Christoph Waltz. It was fun during his Tarantino period, but man, such a potentially brilliant actor should try and do something else but acting “as” Christoph Waltz. Yes, he is good, yes some sequences are overwhelming or funny (the trial sequence, at the end, is actually pretty brilliant ! ) but come on… Two Oscars, that means he should be able to perform something else, something more…

Let’s now get to the main topic, and the real interest of the movie : Amy Adams, and her character. Again, her performance is flawless, to the point that most of the film looks more like a movie about Walter Keane than about Margaret. Somehow it made me think of the sweet irony of the story here : as famous as the Big eyes where, it would never have reach this renown if it wasn’t for… Walter. Back in the sixties it was almost impossible for a woman to “sell her art”, (at the exception of Georgia O’Keeffe, as mentioned in the movie, and she was indeed an exception). And as a pathetic bastard as he was, I feel confident that Walter Keane was truly aware of this reality, and turned it into his own advantage, plain and simple. So I wonder : would have I done differently than him ? Would the critics from that time have appreciate Keane’s work in the same manner if it was Margaret instead of Walter ? Sadly, I don’t think so, and this is where lies the strength of the film : it raises awareness, in a subtle form of pro-feminism, without falling into some crying for compassion towards Margaret.

If like me, you felt fed up with Burton making Burton with Burton’s products, you should consider watching ‘Big Eyes’ as it is not a Burton product like the others. It’s more of a Weinstein/Burton movie with a Tim burton that seems to have understand that he pushed too hard, too far, and shows signs of redemption and atonement. I only hope that it will prevail for his future projects !


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Theo Tessa
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