Big Eyes

January 3, 2015 at 2:08 pm | Posted in 2014 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ½

Though true stories may not seem like Tim Burton’s bailiwick, this one seems right up his alley. Margaret Keane was your typical 50s housewife, as naive and prim as you might imagine a woman from that era could be. But, she also fancied herself a painter and wiled away her time making truly, truly awful paintings of doe-eyed, weepy children. These are the things nightmares are made of and, thus, perfect Burton territory. It doesn’t hurt that you have a manipulative, con-artist husband who orchestrated a successful scam that lead to Keane becoming the top selling artist in the world. Burton has long needed a work to rein him in. In his early years, his weird vision was brilliant (“Beetlejuice” “Edward Scissorhands,” “Nightmare Before Christmas”) but it all got a bit unhinged later and his takes on “Alice in Wonderland” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” were a mess. Here, he is constrained by the physics of 1950s America. It tones him down but his Burton-ness still shows through in the CGI idyllic backgrounds, the cartoonish acting and the too-50s-to-be-real feeling of the entire film. Christoph Walz (“Inglourious Basterd,” “Django Unchained”) gives a manic performance as Margaret’s ne’er-do-well husband. Walz is really the most magnetic thing to watch here. He has remarkably almost eradicated his German accent (no small task at all – Ahnuld still struggles after 40 years) to play the American Walter Keane and he does so with a frenetic, grinning idiocy that borders on slapstick. Amy Adams mostly plays it straight as the beleaguered Margaret and, as a result, while the film focuses on her (which is most of the time), it is much less fun. Walz turns what would otherwise be a standard drama into a biographical satire or, perhaps, a satirical drama (something strange and hard to classify). The story reaches an absurd point in a courtroom scene that I thought had to be made up (it wasn’t — I checked). This film was ridiculous and odd and, occasionally, even funny but mostly odd. As such, it had Tim Burton written all over it.

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