Take a Drink: for each big eye painting
Take a Drink: anytime Christoph Waltz gets pissed
Take a Drink: whenever the characters do
Take a Drink: for each quirky moment
Do a Shot: for each impressive visual
By: Matt Conway (Two Beers) –
Tim Burton is still one of the more eccentric directors working today. From his eccentric look to his even more offbeat visual style, Burton has gained a big following with some of the more out of the box films of recent memory. Films like Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Ed Wood have all become modern classics in a way, with Burton also directing several other well-liked flicks. He has made a career in being a truly unique individual, who incorporates a great deal of style along with heart.
Recently, however, Burton has struggled to reach his previous peak of greatness. While he has made a few very good films over the past decade, including one of my personal favorites, Sweeney Todd, most of his flicks have been uninspired. Most recent efforts Dark Shadows and Alice in Wonderland especially have been examples of style without any substance. His latest film Big Eyes has Burton directing a more traditional film, and it’s surprisingly quite good.
Big Eyes follows Margaret Keane, a painter who gets fame and soon regrets it once her husband Walter publishes her work under his name.
Visually, the film looks quite impressive. Burton and company add quite a bit of visual excitement to a film that directed by anyone else would have looked quite generic. The film has a gorgeous, colorful look which is a nice contrast to the quiet artwork. Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, who previously shot the beautiful Inside Llewyn Davis, does a great job here, with a lot of impactful shots captured throughout the film.
Burton in general does a great job of getting across his great sense of style in a more subdued way. This is his first film set in the real world in over a decade, as Burton is now accustomed to creating larger than life visuals with his fantastical films. Here, Burton does a nice job of showing his unique eye of visuals with less abundance, making the visual quirks stand out even more so.
Complying nicely with Burton’s quirky visual style is the script. Written by the scribe duo of Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander, they do a great job of capturing this story and all of its intrigue, with each new beat of the story being quite engaging. The duo especially excel at dialogue, with the film featuring quite a few funny moments throughout the film.
All around the performances in the film are quite good. Amy Adams in particular is getting a lot of awards attention, and it’s quite deserved. Adams here is very quiet as Margaret Keane, but is still able to get across her insecurities and personality. Adams truly disappears into the role as she usually does, and portrays Keane as a character who is gaining her own voice after years of being told what to do.
Making a interesting juxtaposition to Adams’ performance is Christoph Waltz, who plays her husband Walter. While Margaret is low-key and very introverted, Walter is very boisterous and loud, making them an odd pairing from the start. Waltz for the most part does a solid job in the role, really relishing it and being a part of a lot of the film’s funnier moments. Other supporting players like Jason Schwartzman, Krysten Ritter, and Danny Huston all do solid work in their respective bit roles.
Big Eyes for better or worse is a movie about the story over the characters, and that works in the film’s favor for the most part. This true story in general is just so interesting and bizarre that it’s hard not to be glued to the screen to see what happens next and so on.
However, the film still could have focused a bit more on some of the side characters. While the film does a great job of showing Margaret as a character, other supporting characters have not nearly enough development. This was especially the case for Walter, as despite the character’s interesting personality, he does not have the development to make him a great character. Other characters such as Margaret’s daughter could have had an interesting perspective, but are relegated to a very slight role.
At times, some of the performances, while good, feel like they are going overboard. Waltz in particular towards the final third goes off the rails, and comes off more like a character than an actual person who existed in this universe. The same could be said about Danny Huston, whose reporter, while he does a good job, feels at times a bit too shticky.
Aside from a few issues, Big Eyes is a surprising enjoyable and quirky take on the story of Margaret Keane, boasting some good performances and an interesting visual style. Let’s hope Tim Burton continues to do more interesting projects like this.