Big Eyes

by | Feb 2, 2015 | 0 comments

Tim Burton Goes Back to His Roots And Succeeds

Tim Burton is a very complicated director. He usually goes for extreme abstract in his films, and this obsession has led him to bury himself in recent years with films such as Dark Shadows and Alice in Wonderland. However, his latest film Big Eyes is a huge step into his “abandoned territory”. The last biopic or real story that Burton undertook was in 1994, more than 20 years ago with Ed Wood. In Big Eyes Burton restrains from the scary and weird and focuses more on the journey of his characters, a skill that we loved from Edward Scissorhands and which had faded away after Corpse Bride. Led with the brilliant performances of Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, Burton is coming back out into the light again.

Big Eyes is the true story of the marriage of painters Margaret and Walter Keane. At first, Margaret (Amy Adams) is suffering; she’s a woman in the 50s, left her previous husband, ran away with her daughter to San Francisco, and lives off selling paintings at the park for 1$. Her paintings are especially unique, however. Margaret enlarges the eyes of the people (specifically children) depicted in her paintings. At the park she meets the charming, also painter, Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz). After only a date, Margaret receives a letter that has her previous husband is asking for custody of her child. Knowing that she will never survive in court she verges a nervous breakdown, but Walter offers to marry her, offering a stable environment for her and her child. The rushed marriage seems perfect at first, but as financial stress comes down upon them, things take a turn. While trying to sell both his and Margaret’s paintings at a San Francisco club, Walter accidently is addressed as the painter of the ‘big eye’ paintings (due that his and Margaret’s surnames are the same when signed). When accidentally being tagged as the painter a second time he begins to take credit for the work behind Margaret’s back and begins making a lot of money. As Margaret finds out, Walter convinces her that people wouldn’t buy the ‘big eye’ paintings if they knew it was painted by a woman, which leads to Margaret chain herself to dishonesty, painting in order for Walter to bathe in her success, and to keep her daughter safe.

The big message behind the film is essentially that of plagiarism, which is a big problem in the art and film industry. The film perfectly frustrates the audience with the lack of proper credit to the artist, and that in itself could carry a deeper message maybe to film piracy, which with the current vulnerability to hacks and technology, is a big issue.

One thing I found interesting is that the characters are paradoxes within themselves. While Walter is the successful and charming creditor he, deep down, is an insecure and failed artist, who finds his own comfort in plagiarism, this makes him the weak one. But in the film it mockingly addresses Margaret, as the weak one, when in fact it must have taken so much bravery to succumb to Walter’s greed for ten years in order to protect her daughter, who is her primary inspiration in her paintings and in her life.

Both Waltz and Adams have already proved themselves as amazing actors. So these “challenging roles” end up being comfortably dominated by them. Waltz’s work with a non-Tarantino director proves to be rewarding for him as he stretches his horizon of capabilities. Adams, meanwhile, is able to shine with her multilayered and not necessarily attractive character (a step from her role in American Hustle last year). Their chemistry and their emotional portrayals are enough to pulsate the film’s message clear and entertainingly to us.

Burton, meanwhile, as mentioned before, undergoes a sense of rebirth. He steps away from working with his wife, Helen Bonham-Carter or favorite Johnny Depp and goes back to his roots. His direction while very toned down from his most recent films, still keeps a sense of abstract that ends up looking more pleasingly like Wes Anderson than Burton’s egotistic self.

It is a delight to know that one of the world’s greatest directors hasn’t caved in. Big Eyes not only showcases art (both literally and cinematically), but it transfers a crucial message and true story that is essential now in the dangerous transition to the digital age.  





Visual Aesthetic



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