First, let me just say, I am a huge fan of Tim Burton. And that ain’t easy, sometimes, let me tell you as you’re trying to sit through a remake of… well, any remake he has made. But From Pee Wee’s Big Adventure to Edward Scissorhands to yes, even Sleepy Hollow, I enjoy my time at the movies with Tim Burton. So when I saw he was directing what was essentially a period piece based on real people and events, I was both excited and nervous.
Big Eyes tells the bizarre true story of an epic art fraud perpetrated by husband and wife. Walter Keane reached worldwide success with his paintings of children with big eyes. Only he didn’t paint them. His wife Margaret did.
Let me assure everyone from the get go, you needn’t worry about this film. This is Tim Burton at his best. Directing actors, evoking a feeling, and not getting bogged down with weirdness for the sake of weirdness, effects, or trying to give you that “Tim Burton feel”. This is Big Fish. Sincere and at its core, a drama. Which is what Big Fish is if you strip away all the effects.
The most exciting thing about Big Eyes is that Tim Burton didn’t make “A Tim Burton Movie”. He made a MOVIE. Everything from the production design of San Francisco in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s to the acting and directing, and even the story progression was a joy and a pleasure to watch. Tim Burton once said in an interview that he was more interested in evoking a feeling than worrying about plot points. Thankfully, he did both in this film.
There are a few odd missteps and some out of place (at least tonally) scenes, like when Terrence Stamp playing an art critic blocks a fork to the eye like a ninja, and a Three Stooges courtroom scene. Also, Margaret’s relationship with her daughter is key to the story and her life, yet it never feels fully developed or as important as it should. But these are minor quibbles in a solid film.
Amy Adams plays Margaret Keane as a full character, at times weak and naïve, and other times strong and smart. You feel for her, you see her get swept up in the art fraud, and you see how the culture towards women at the time played a role as well. Christoph Waltz plays a great con artist, but even he is layered and you feel he really does care about Margaret at the beginning. You feel like it never began as a con. Also, his accent is toned down to a listenable level. I don’t know if there is something in his contract about accent intensity, (1-10) as it seems to vary from film to film to the point where it is distractingly incomprehensible. Thankfully we are only at a 3 or 4 here on the CWAIS (Christoph Waltz Accent Intensity Scale)
So Tim Burton has made a grown-up movie. (Like Sam Raimi did when he made A Simple Plan) That’s not an insult, just a description. He should make more of them. But I still want to see other movies like Big Fish, Beetlejuice and Ed Wood, too. Basically I just want Tim Burton to make movies he wants to make. Then I can just watch the Tim Burton movies I want to watch.