On the Silver Screen – Big Eyes
Tim Burton’s Big Eyes tells the story of painter Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) as she tries to climb out of the shadow of her overpowering husband Walter (Christoph Waltz) when he claims credit for her work.
Burton’s track record with live action film making has been spotty at best in the past few years so you never really know what you’re getting when signing up to view a Tim Burton movie these days. Big Eyes is his second biopic after the excellent Ed Wood preceding this one by 20 years so it’s relatively unexplored territory for this veteran director.
Big Eyes is very much a mixed bag and it’s really unclear as to why. Burton had all the ingredients here to make something really great. He pulled together a really talented cast -with no Helena Bonham Carter or Johnny Depp in sight- as well as having a great story to tell so it’s baffling why this didn’t turn out better than it did.
The major issue with Big Eyes is that it rushes through several years worth of events really quickly. Scenes take place months or years apart with no clear indication that time has passed at all other than the way the characters behave towards each other. It makes the whole thing really disjointed with completely unearned character development.
Amy Adams turns in probably the worst performance I’ve seen for her and plays Margaret Keane as a really bland character who is really uninteresting to watch. Most of her feelings are told to us through dialogue rather than being shown through her performance despite her emotions being one of the central themes of the film. Her connection to her paintings and the pain she feels at not being recognised for them should have been front and center here but ultimately it fades into the extensive backdrop. Her performance can probably be attributed to poor direction as every other time I’ve seen her in a film she has been great.
Christoph Waltz is nothing short of ridiculous in this role. I don’t know much about the real Walter Keane but Waltz plays him as unrealistically over the top. Every second of screen time he has sees him mugging for the cameras in a big way. I found it more distracting than funny most of the time and kept wanting him to tone it all down. Waltz is an excellent character actor so I think this must be down to poor direction as with Amy Adams rather than Waltz’ ability.
The rushed nature of the story telling means that the emotional undercurrents are awkward to watch. It is mentioned that Walter Keane is overpowering and forces her to go along with the lie which does come across but not to the extent the dialogue suggests.
Big Eyes is not without merit though. I think that it starts off very well with Margaret’s character being nicely established to begin with. I was interested to see how she got into the situation she did and how it would progress. There are also some funny moments like a court scene so ridiculous it has to be seen to be believed. I wonder how much of this story was embellished for dramatic purposes.
Tim Burton’s latest live action effort leaves a lot to be desired and comes across as a clumsily executed biopic.
Burton’s use of his talented cast is really disappointing as both Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz turn in really uneven performances. This must be due to bad direction as both actors are normally excellent.
The story is so disjointed as it skips months and years with no indication beyond how the character’s behave towards one another.
It’s a shame the result was so poor as the film had a promising opening with good establishment of Margaret’s character and a solid start to a story that rapidly deteriorates. Tim Burton manages to turn in another lukewarm effort.