Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston, Krysten Ritter, Terence Stamp, Jason Schwarzman
Written by: Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski
Running Time: 108 mins
Release date: 26th December 2014
When Tim Burton makes a movie, you know exactly what you are going to get: a dark, gothic tale with weird characters and even weirder situations. So going into his latest, Big Eyes, you are in for a big surprise. Not only is it his most accessible film of his career but it’s possibly his best in a very long time.
Margaret is a divorced artist who specialises in painting children with big eyes. This captures the attention of fellow painter, Walter Keane and after a whirlwind romance, they marry. Walter sees an opportunity for making money by putting his paintings of streets along side those by Margaret. His works are ignored but hers start to sell. Instead of confessing that his wife painted them, he takes the credit and it starts to get out of hand, as her kitschy designs become a phenomenon. As the money pours in, Margaret feels that she is being taken for a ride, especially when she discovers the truth about Walter Keane.
Based on a true story and written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who specialise in unusual biopics (they’ve worked with Burton before on Ed Wood), this is as far removed from Burton’s previous features as you can get. Bright colours and clear, sharp cinematography, this has the feel of Edward Scissorhands but never goes down the dark route. Even the more shadowy moments are filled with hue and light.
The story is untypical of Burton. It deals with real people, even if their lives are full of lies and deceit. The only time we enter a real Burton moment is when Margaret, shopping in a yellow coloured supermarket, comes across her paintings in print form, only to be surrounded by shoppers with unusually large eyes.
Yet it’s not just the conventional film style that Burton has adopted. The story has heart, humour that isn’t black and characters you grow to love and hate in equal measures. We follow Margaret escaping from one failed marriage and entering into another marriage that you instantly know won’t work, with a man who could charm money out of the tightest person. Burton allows his actors room to deliver and they do so with plenty of class.
The film is safely in the hands of Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz. Adams never fails to deliver and here she does it again. As Margaret, she brings a quiet, unassuming character who grows in strength as the film progresses, from the easily swayed to a strong, independent woman refusing to be pushed around. Playing opposite is the excellent Christoph Waltz as Walter Keane, a man so slick, he could be a tin of oil. Yet as you watch him, he manages to charm us too. Even though he is the villain of the piece, Waltz makes him incredibly likeable. These two are a match made in heaven.
There has to be a special mention from a nicely spiteful cameo from Terence Stamp, as an art critic who refuses to follow the trend of loving Big Eyes. He only has a few short scenes and yet he makes a huge impact with his crisp English accent and pompousness. It’s the perfect example of making the most of a small part, without upsetting the balance of the rest of the picture.
Leading to a finale scene in a courtroom that is surprisingly hilarious, Burton, by staying away from what he loves, has shown a very different side. It’s a film that zips along at a terrific pace and never leaves you bored or uninterested. Considering the story line, it is refreshing and fun and I loved every moment of it. It’s a perfect way to end a decent 2014.