Julian's Judgment: Big Eyes

"Big Eyes" (2014), an empowering biopic directed by Tim Burton and starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, follows the art and business of Margaret and Walter Keane's Big Eyes phenomena of the 1960s. Spoilers ahead in this review.

Numerous biopics have come out this Oscar season (Unbroken, The Imitation Game, American Sniper to name a few), though Big Eyes disappoints by portraying Margaret's character as a helpless damsal roughing it in the 1960s art scene. After she meets Walter and some plot stuff happens, there's a 10 year time jump where Walter Keane's international wealth and recognition gets to a point where Margaret sues and the last act of the film occurs in fantastic Hollywood fashion (really, they're going to have an art-off?) I know that's what happened in real life, but ending the movie on that note leaves out the rest of Margaret's painting career, which I guess is not notable compared to her time with Walter.

I thought about the character Margaret Keane and how Walter overshadows her the moment they meet. Walter's "fake it till you make it" mentality truly exemplifies that it's not what you know that will make you famous, but how you portray yourself and exploit those around you for profit. Midway through the movie, and an art enthusiast comes into the Keane's gallery and talks to Margaret about her work. She then tells the buyer a bunch of numerology mumbo-jumbo and Walter takes the enthusiast away from her. Clearly Margaret would never be famous were it not for her husbands mass marketing and business sense. A few detractors may say Walter "abused" her to get his way and "she had no choice," but the beginning of the film shows her escaping to San Francisco from her former husband, ready to start over. This happens again with Walter, but Margaret keeps the Keane name due to its financially profitability. Big Eyes shows Margaret as a silent and dutiful wife and it's painfully obvious she played her part for the large sums of money. She exposed the truth AFTER their international recognition. Why does this matter? Well, Burton heavily suggests Margaret had no choice in the matter when she clearly did - she did not elect that option for the financial well-being of herself and daughter. Understandable, but not exactly morally excusable; both Margaret and Walter Keane are both frauds in that sense, yet she (probably) receives unbridled support for her bravery in an abusive relationship, bravery backed by international fame and a net worth in the millions. Give me a break!

Technically speaking, Christoph's Waltz phoned in his performance, acting much the same as he has in his other movies and Amy Adams did an admirable job given the average script and exceedingly bland directing from Burton. Personally, I saw almost all the twists and turns in the movie as Burton does a poor job concealing the foreshadowing moments in the film, though he may trick you if you're not paying attention. Mid-way through the movie I slumped in my seat dismayed by Margaret's choices (or at least how it's portrayed) and amazed by Walter's ability to market the artwork. This movie wouldn't exist if his ego didn't go to his head, yet here we are, watching this movie 50 years later and looking at this below average biopic slightly mislead the audience into thinking Margaret Keane's life and "struggle" is something worth watching. Burton's an avid Keane art collector, so portraying her life in the best way possible probably makes his collection more valuable, which makes me skeptical of the validity of this movie. Oh well, they got my money.

Grade: D