Saturday movie review: Big Eyes

Every baby boomer alive has likely seen—perhaps loved, maybe even owned—the paintings of big-eyed waifs by the artist Keane. I was always intrigued (and, yes, moved) by the bizarre pieces, but I never knew the story of the artist, the true artist.

Big Eyes movie

BIG EYES is the incredible and often maddening true story of the true artist of those haunting and immensely popular and profitable paintings, posters and postcards.

Amy Adams—who can play absolutely anything to perfection and won a Golden Globe for this film—portrays Margaret... who early into the movie becomes Margaret Keane when she marries Walter Keane, played by Christoph Waltz. Walter is charming, endearing, demanding. He's also a big fat liar and a wannabe artist who claims Margaret's work as his own.

Margaret goes along with it, though. Unbelievably so. The scheme fools the entire world and brings in millions for the couple. It also destroys their relationship, reputation, and more.

BIG EYES first seemed it would be a basic profile of a female artist. It's so much more than that. It's the story of a woman who, like many women of that era, let a man dominate her, crush her spirit, crush her dreams, and damage her relationships with her friends, her beloved daughter and herself. It's an intriguing look at how she slowly succumbs to it all and how she tries to reclaim all a man took from her.

Amy Adams showed Margaret's pain and suffering—and longing and determination and spunk—quietly yet undeniably throughout. Many times it was simply facial expressions that cut me to the core. I spent much of the film being so incensed by what Margaret allowed Walter to do to her and her work.

And Walter? What a freak! And what a magnificent, freaky performance by Christoph Waltz. I couldn't stand Walter, couldn't stand how he weaseled his way into taking over all Margaret accomplished while squashing her down every step of the way.

I couldn't stop marveling at both Adams and Waltz nor the maddening and confounding story of which I was previously ignorant. And I couldn't help but cheer Margaret as she worked to turn things around.

BIG EYES was directed by Tim Burton, so I expected some over-the-top wackiness of a surreal sort. Instead, the film was quite touching and real—with the only wacky stuff being the unbelievable yet true story and Burton's glaring, colorful, and often humorous reflections on the bizarre ways of the sixties.

I heard very little about BIG EYES when it came out theatrically last year. Now I can't stop thinking about it. Margaret Keane's story is one of a creative and strong female who lost her way but was determined to find her way back to her art, her name, her ability to stand on her own and fight for what's hers, fight for what's right. One heck of an inspirational woman whom I will never forget.

I watched BIG EYES on DVD and there's a fabulous featurette included on the disc. I'm unable to share that here, but this one featuring Amy Adams and the real Margaret Keane is quite interesting:


BIG EYES (rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language) was released in theaters in 2014 and is now available on DVD and other formats. Find out more on the BIG EYES website.