Tim Burton got out of his own way with the refreshingly CGI-free art-world period-piece biopic Big Eyes. The film is a traditional but effective rise-and-fall narrative that was bolstered by a superb central performance from Amy Adams as the tragic painter Margaret Keane. The story of the Keane painting legacy and controversy is inherently fascinating, as it pivots on well-worn themes of betrayal, identity, guilt, and greed, and the unsurprisingly strong screenplay by biopic specialists Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (The People vs. Larry Flynt, Man on the Moon, Burton’s masterpiece Ed Wood) gives a great sense of how awful it must’ve been for Margaret Keane to watch her psychopathic husband Walter (Christoph Waltz, perfectly vile) take all of the credit for her “Big Eyes” paintings, and pathologically lie to everyone he came into contact with.
Danny Elfman’s jaunty, jazzy score keeps the mood light even when the story gets dark and sad (which it often does), and master cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (Inside Llewyn Davis, A Very Long Engagement, Amelie, Darkest Hour) shoots in de-saturated, gauzy tones that wonderfully reflect the early 60’s atmosphere. Burton will always be one of the premiere cinematic stylists, and I’m always down for when he goes “small.” Big Eyes is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and via various streaming providers.
Review by Nick Clement