List Film

Big Eyes (3 stars)

Fascinating if slightly flimsy biopic of painter Margaret Keane from Tim Burton

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Big Eyes

Amy Adams turns in a superb performance as artist Margaret Keane in this biopic from Tim Burton that tells the stranger-than-fiction tale of the time when her husband Walter (played here by a frustratingly over the top Christoph Waltz) took credit for her paintings, fooling the art world for many years. When Margaret’s paintings featuring women and children with oversized eyes became all the rage in the 1960s, the egomaniac and pathological liar Walter took the chance to exploit her talent.

The stifling of the female voice is a worthy and important subject to which Adams brings her A-game, however the screenplay by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski is far too pleasant and doesn’t handle Margaret's psychological abuse in a satisfying manner. Her perspective is rarely glimpsed, instead the focus is on the bigger picture and the constraints of that era. However, Margaret's journey to reclaim her identity makes for fascinating viewing, with the final courtroom scene being a particular highlight.

Issues surrounding critics’ judgements versus popular opinion are also thrown into the mix, with Terence Stamp as The New York Times art critic John Canaday providing food for thought. The kitsch aesthetic, alongside cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel’s eye for detail - his camera swooping over the canned goods in a supermarket aisle - nods to Warhol’s preoccupations and plays astutely with the rise in consumer culture and mass production.

Alexander and Karaszewski also tackle journalistic integrity through the character of gossip columnist Dick Nolan (Danny Huston). There are hints of Sweet Smell of Success' JJ Hunsecker in Huston’s portrayal but his narration isn’t entirely successful due to a tendency to explain too much of what we have already seen. Nevertheless, Big Eyes deserves kudos for exploring the symbiotic relationship between business and art and it feels very personal at times.

General release from Fri 26 Dec.

Big Eyes - Official Trailer

Big Eyes

  • 3 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Tim Burton
  • Cast: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston, Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman, Terence Stamp
  • UK release: 26 December 2014

Biopic of Margaret Keane (Adams), whose paintings of women and children with oversized eyes became all the rage in the 60s – except that husband Walter (Waltz) took all the credit. Adams is superb but despite thoughtful touches, the treatment of her character's psychological abuse is unsatisfying.

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