Big Eyes (2014)
Directed by Tim Burton
There’s not much to be said about “Big Eyes,” so I’ll keep it short. Tim Burton’s latest film is arguably his least Burtonesque, but did that work in his favor? Starring Amy Adams as the 1960s San Francisco-based painter Margaret Keane and Christoph Waltz as her controlling husband Walter, who took the credit for all of her work, “Big Eyes” had the promise of one of the year’s best films. This true story is deserving of big screen treatment, but Burton didn’t do it justice.
Using the screenwriting team of “Ed Wood” and “Man on the Moon,” Burton tried to blend humor and drama to tell the fascinating true tale with a focus on the couple’s public relationship, only venturing inside the house a handful of times and leaving their daughter, Jane (Delaney Raye and then Madeline Arthur), out of the picture much of the time. Sometimes, Danny Elfman’s score and the kitschy script gave “Big Eyes” an almost soap opera feel, and the two leads didn’t help. In fact, Adams and Waltz give mostly unremarkable performances. They alternate between trying too hard and not trying at all. Much of the time, their dramatic tension seems stiff and insincere. Regardless, they were both nominated for Golden Globes for their roles. Adams is certainly the better of the two, and maybe she has a shot at besting Emily Blunt for her role in “Into the Woods.” Waltz, though, is near the bottom of the pack. Maybe he should stick to supporting roles in Tarantino films, a niche that has won him (deservingly) two Oscars.
Trying to tell a story as exhaustive as the Keanes’ (it took 10 years before Margaret decided to fight for the credit she deserved) is no simple task, but it could have been done with more grace than Burton put into it. Burton stepped out of his comfort zone by stepping into ours, but in the end his stab at realism didn’t work out like it could have.
“Big Eyes” is in theaters.