Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Big Eyes (2014) Review
"Big Eyes" tells the real-life story of painter Margaret Keane and how she was trapped by a marriage in the worst way: Stripped of her name and artistic identity through her husband's lies. Tim Burton previously made one of the best films about the artistic struggle with "Ed Wood" and he touches upon similar themes here. Like how "Ed Wood" flips the traditional artistic biopic formula on its head, "Big Eyes" is cleverly inverted here. Instead of portraying the joy of art, the film takes on the trappings of being a great artist: That if art is intertwined with the aspects of your identity, you can lose it at any moment.
The film is a departure from Tim Burton's usual Gothic style but it has shadings of the characters he's drawn to in both Walter and Amy. What originally unites them together is perhaps where many Tim Burton characters might finish their filmic journey: Outsiders to the mainstream who have found a partner-in-crime that could move them closer to the center of societal acceptance and, ultimately, societal success.
But as they say, "Happily ever after fails" (In this case, I'm specifically thinking of Don Henley
who followed that line with "We've been poisoned by these fairy tales") and what's left is the trappings of a psychological thriller. This ends up being a more adult conflict than his way, this is a much more adult work than say "Corpse Bride" or "Alice in Wonderland."
The film is egregiously mislabelled as a comedy by organizations such as the Golden Globes (and Netflix). The closest it comes to comedic is Walter Keane's sense of self-delusion. That characterization, however, is an important plot point, and ignoring that is a sign that perhaps Burton's reputation prevents the film from being taken as seriously as it should.
The film is also further evidence that Christophe Waltz is one of the most fascinating actors of today. He is mostly consigned to villains but can make something out of practically everything he's handed. It's hard to fathom that this remarkable actor was toiling in the German film industry for years before being discovered. He's well-known for his roles in Quentin Tarantino films but I can't emphasize how much fans of this actor should check this film out: By requiring him to turn from a sympathetic artist in the first act to a devious villain, few films have tested his range as such.
Additionally, check out the real life story.