Released on Christmas Day of last year, Big Eyes is inspired by the real life events and actions of Margaret Keane and Walter Keane’s marriage and, uh… hmmm… lets go with artistic collaboration. In the movie, Margaret, who is a talented if unconfident young artist with a daughter, moves to San Francisco and meets a charming artist named Walter. They get married and start to create and sell art together. Walter, a natural salesman and showman, handles the business side of things and while shilling both of their wares in a nightclub one night, takes responsibility for one of Margaret’s paintings. He talks her into going along with this con and the events of the movie, and real life, spiral out from there. Her unique, at least in the West, art style resonates with people and they become hugely successful; at least for a time.
I enjoyed this movie as much as I did for two reasons; the setting and the actors. The setting is mostly late 1950s, early 1960s San Francisco and it’s captured really well by director Tim Burton and his crew. That unique swirl of uptight 50s with the colorful and excessive hipness of the 60s creates a fun and unique atmosphere that provides a rich and fun backdrop for the story. Picture what season eight or nine of Mad Men would probably look like and you’ll get the idea.
The movie is carried by Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams, who play the deceitful married couple; one or both of them is in just about every scene and the story is really only theirs and nobody else; the actress who plays Margaret’s daughter has a few nice moments, but this is a two person play. Waltz is loud, expressive and always quick with a quip or made up story, just as you imagine a man like Walter would have been, while Adams plays her character like a ghost; unless it’s a scene between the two of them, she is never the center of attention. People are always talking to her Waltz or just about any one else. She injects a quite sense of desperation and inevitability into her character that is quite sad and touching. It’s an entertaining exercise in opposites that does an excellent job of showing the viewer what it must have been like during this time for both people.
I was completely unfamiliar with this story before the movie and really enjoyed it; the movie doesn’t try to do anything fancy or unconventional from a narration standpoint; if you are worried about Tim Burton going Full Burton here he never does. I read that he is quite the fan of Margaret Keane’s work so maybe his desire to get her story out there stifled some of his excessive predilections. I found Margaret Keane’s art, which the movie uses and I assume is the real thing, but be powerful and interesting to look at. It’s remarkable and interesting to think that she would go along with such an absurd and deceitful plan to giver her husband all the credit, but when you consider the time and the life she had lived up till then, the movie takes on a more impactful role of giving us a glimpse into married relationships of that time and just how brainwashed a person could become when all of society is telling you to remain within the stifling box of a wife and housekeeper.
Next book: Foundation and Empire
Next movie: Imitation Game