BIG EYES | REVIEW

BIG EYES sees Tim Burton returning to something obscure and original. The true story “Burton-take” of Margaret Keane, an artist that was ripped off by her husband for years, getting all the accolades for her work and treating her like shit. A true retelling of a misogynistic ruling a woman’s life. A tale that needs to be seen and enjoyed in true Tim Burton style. BIG EYES is releasing this Thursday 19th March in Australia with thanks to Roadshow Films, it is rated M and runs for 109mins. Suss Kernel Emma’s thoughts on this artistic drama below……all the best….JK.

 

BIG EYES MOVIE POSTER IMAGE
BIG EYES | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | BIG EYES PAINTING

 

BY EMMA BISHOP

Margaret Keane ‘walked out on her husband long before it was the fashionable thing to do’. These are the opening words of Burton’s uncharacteristic yet enchantingly creative BIG EYES, which finally sees the talented artist given the credit she deserves. The film derives its name from the beautifully solemn wide-eyed portraits painted by artist Margaret (Amy Adams). In one of the worst cases of artistic fraud in history her work was then publicly claimed by her husband Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz). For those of you well-acquainted with the style of Burton, BIG EYES signals a more mature and polished transition for the much loved auteur. Stylistically, this film is Burton through and through, from the picturesque 50’s suburban set design, to the very particular framing and mise en scène. Thematically, we explore the problematic gender rights of the 1950s which are guided by the notion that ‘people don’t buy lady art’. On the other hand BIG EYES functions successfully as a biopic about one truly talented woman, who was subject to exploitation and misogyny at the hands of her own husband. BIG EYES will make you laugh, it will educate you and it will infuriate you beyond belief. The film signals an exciting change for Burton and it’s just as educating as it is entertaining.

 

BIG EYES MOVIE IMAGE
BIG EYES | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | MARGARET AND WALTER KEANE (AMY ADAMS AND CHRISTOPH WALTZ)

 

Margaret Keane believed eyes were the true window to the soul, bringing this to life through her extraordinarily dark paintings. As a woman who was passionate about creativity, she ran no risk of selling out; her husband unfortunately did that for her. Enter Walter Keane, overt-extrovert and greedy businessman and before we know it, it’s like she never even existed. Walter is a smooth talker and an A class bullshit artist, not that the adoring fans will ever know. Christoph Waltz is perfectly cast in this role and we cannot help but detest his sleazy persona. Adams serves as the perfect contrast to Waltz, she is tenuous enough for us to sympathise with, yet retains an admirable sense of dignity and conviction when standing up to her husband. As the voiceover reminds us, “the 50s were a great time if you were a man.” As we delve further into Walter’s story and watch him blackmail and abuse his wife, one is forced to question his sanity. We consider the impact for Walter of having an extremely talented wife, in a society where men were perceived as the dominant of the pair. While Walter masks his insecurities by claiming his wife’s talent, Margaret sits in the shadows, becoming the subject of voyeurism and nothing else. Thankfully for all, she gains the confidence to claim back her art and a satisfying outcome ensues. Finding ourselves at such a conclusion, we are seriously relived and Burton’s admiration of Margaret is very much apparent.

 

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BIG EYES | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | MARGARET (AMY ADAMS) SLEEPING UNDER A BIG EYES PAINTING

 

While this biographical story largely focuses on the relationship between Walter and Margaret Keane, Burton’s inclusion of some rather subtle yet intelligent themes is particularly enjoyable. BIG EYES can be read as a satire of popular culture, Walter does not care if ‘his’ art becomes a mass produced commodity, he’s got to make money after all. There is one scene where Margaret walks through a particularly bright-lit, crowded supermarket and stumbles upon copies of her art on tacky posters and cards. Here we explore the notion of selling out and of authorship, all the while frustratingly knowing that this is outside of her control. We explore the notion of selling out once again, when a large group of young artistic types visit the Keane’s gallery. Having no money to purchase the actual paintings, they proceed to instead rip down the advertising posters. Walter sees this as the perfect opportunity to make money and before we know it he has replicated the poster thousands of times. He proceeds to sell these copies for ten cents, reminding his wife that any money is better than none at all.

BIG EYES, for the most part, performs effectively as a feminist story. Ultimately Margaret’s creativity and will-power wins and both her and her daughter come out triumphant. We learn that a woman can be a great mother and have a career all at the same time, funny that. Walter on the other hand, proves madder than imagined; never once admitting his creativity was a fraud even after a lengthy court-case.

 

BIG EYES MOVIE IMAGE
BIG EYES | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | MARGARET (AMY ADAMS) PAINTING

 

From the opening sequence, the cinematography just screams Burton. BIG EYES really is, beautiful to look at and is crafted in a particular way so as to be recognisable and yet stylistically warmer than his previous work. The pretty pastel colours of suburbia, took me back to those used in Edward Scissorhands, as did the classic feminine fashion. The dark shadowed lighting and geometric lines, we typically associate with Burton’s set design are nowhere to be seen and instead we see bold colour. Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel explained this by saying “Tim said he wanted something very light and slightly twisted, not a big fancy movie,” a choice that certainly proves fruitful.

BIG EYES is slightly on the long side, but each and every scene is crafted with just the right amount of story and equal Burton flare to keep it interesting. This is not an action film, nor is it fixated on dramatic visual entertainment. Arthouse audiences will no doubt resonate with Burton’s approach and hopefully enjoy this one just as much as I did.

 

3 and a Half Pops