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Big Eyes - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Big Eyes
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: B
Cinematography: B
Editing: B

Big Eyes isn't particularly bad on any level, but it is unusually, almost disappointingly conventional for Tim Burton. Granted, Burton's recent work has been slightly on the wane, and he hasn't offered anything particularly great since Sweeney Todd, which, though a musical, featured a very recognizably dark, Burtonesque sensibility.

None of that can be found here, in a new movie filled with brightness and color, but without the sinister undertones of, say, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, itself an underrated, great film. Big Eyes, by contrast, is a film no one would guess was directed by Burton, or scored by Burton stalwart Danny Elfman, for that matter. With just a few subtle, surrealistic flourishes (notably a couple visions of people with eyes as big as those in the paintings), this story is very straightforward.

The story is on its own rather interesting, and based on fact: Margaret Keane (a lovely Amy Adams) is the true artist of kitchy paintings of little girls with disproportionately large eyes; her husband, however (Christoph Waltz in an unusually overblown performance), is taking credit. It starts with a simple misunderstanding in a pub gallery, which Walter Keane insists he went along with so as not to "jinx the sale." But he runs with it, ultimately selling countless paintings, plus cheap paper reproductions of the paintings on postcards and posters, and getting rich in the process.

This goes on for ten years, beginning in the late fifties. A subtle but poignant scene depicts Margaret in a confessional, trying to work through the guilt of lying to her daughter from a previous marriage (the first husband is never shown). The priest tells her they are taught that the man is the head of the household, so she should go along with what he says.

As one might guess, it tears at her soul. It does for years. Amy Adams is easily the best part of Big Eyes, so she can't be faulted for this, but it must be noted that there's some vital element of this story missing. There is plenty of potential for genuine drama, which this film lacks and could have used more of; instead, Burton lets the story unravel in an almost passive way. The end result is a movie that's entertaining enough on its face, but ultimately forgettable. No one is going to be talking much about this one weeks from now, let alone years.

We also get some amusing performances in smaller parts by Jason Schwartzman as a gallery owner, and Terrence Stamp as an art critic, both of them skeptics of the Keane esthetic. Danny Huston as the reporter who narrates the story makes a little less sense, given how little he actually plays in the story. It might have worked a lot better if it were told more directly from Margaret's perspective. It also would have been nice to get more with Margaret's friend DeeAnn (Kriyten Ritter), who is skeptical of Walter from the very beginning.

In spite of so much potential lost, what does make it onscreen in Big Eyes is generally done competently; no part of it is done especially poorly or brings the story down. There's just not enough to elevate it. It works for one viewing, if it happens to be what you're watching. But there's no reason to rush for this one -- you'll be perfectly content, and entertained enough, to watch it on your television sometime in the relatively near future.

Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams are reluctant cohorts in the elaborate lie of BIG EYES.

Overall: B
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