You can learn a lot about a person based on the things that they put on their walls. Guys like me who have movie poster can be identified as obvious film geeks. Those that fill their walls with classical art tend to be prim and proper, even if what they own are copies. Those that have sports imagery tend to be more aggressive and a tad more ambitious with their plans. Those that choose to place nothing on their walls are minimalist and value their own lives over the thoughts of others. The art that one ones not only tells a thousand words in the picture, but it says millions about the owner.
Going on the subject of classical, those that are not of higher class at least want to be seen as classy. Hence those that can’t afford true art will buy posters. Once such poster that filled plenty of homes were the “Big Eyes” paintings that Margaret Keane produced. Distinct by the dark imagery of children with oversize pupils, this is a rare form of art that is both challenging yet simple enough that even non art fans can perceive this as “interesting” looking. Big Eyes gives us a different perspective of the artist behind the brush.
In 1958, Margaret Hawkins (played by Amy Adams) left her first husband, taking her child Jane with her, and moving to San Francisco where she hopes she can become a true artist. She uses her painting skills to get a job at a furniture design store while she paints caricatures on the weekends at art fairs. She’s set up next to another artist Walter Keane (played by Christoph Waltz) who see’s that her work as fascinating. In order to prevent Jane from being taken away, she agrees to marry Walter and she’s pretty swoon by his charming, salesman-like attitude.
A misunderstanding at a nightclub causes Walter to claim one of Margret’s paintings as his own. At first she’s mad by this, but when her husband convinces her that the art would sale better if the public knew that a man painted the “Big Eyes”, she agrees to go along with the charade. Walter becomes a celebrity by the public as a genus and manages to sell more posters of the “Big Eyes” then of the art. The pressure persuades Margaret to eventually divorce him and even try to get her credit back, but of course have to challenge Walter on his insistence that the “Big Eyes” are his.
What people are not going to guess out of Big Eyes is that Tim Burton directed it. It seems odd because the story is too human for an artsy guy like him (even though he also directed another great biopic, Ed Wood). But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Tim Burton really knew what he was doing for this. Sure, Big Eyes doesn’t have the traditional German Expressionism that Burton is more established with, but he does have an eye for giving the past a postcard look to it. San Francisco and Hawaii look really nice here.
I can tell that what attracted Amy Adams to this story is that Big Eyes is a feminist movie. It addresses the trouble of the position women were in and how the public perceived that Margaret could have not been talented enough to paint these images. She’s really likable as you want to she her prove justice to her art. Christoph Waltz is just perfect here, playing the scumbag con artist that Walter Keane probably was. These two make a good team in a story about art that should appeal to most people.
I’ll give this five “Big Eyes” paintings out of five. Even those that are not into art will probably enjoy this movie as it’s more about the painter then the paintings. It’s really a story about a strange marriage and claiming ones right to their work. If you can, open your own big eyes to such a great film.