Review: Big Eyes

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

PLOT: The story of artist Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), whose famous ‘Big Eyes’ paintings were passed off as the work of her con man husband, Walter (Christoph Waltz).

REVIEW: Anyone who’s sat through ALICE IN WONDERLAND or DARK SHADOWS can tell you that Tim Burton’s work has gotten stale. Maybe it’s a lack of material or his getting carried away in his relationship with his on-screen alter-ego Johnny Depp (who seems happy to phone it in these days), but Burton’s movies were getting awfully familiar. Turns out, all Burton needed to re-ignite his creativity was a good (if still absolutely bizarre) story, and a cast that’s unique in that none of the principals have worked with Burton before.

All told, this is his best work since BIG FISH and the most mature film he’s made since his often overlooked classic ED WOOD (which, to give him his due, featured an absolutely incredible Johnny Depp performance). The ‘Big Eyes’ paintings were apparently all the rage in the sixties and seventies, with Walter Keane generating millions by the then-novel idea to reproduce the paintings as cheaply made posters, which no doubt got the art world up in arms but made him very rich indeed.

Of course, we know now that it was Walter’s wife, Margaret that really did the paintings, and BIG EYES is an interesting look into the mind of a woman so devoted to her family that she let her husband take credit for everything she ever did, just for the sake of having a happy home. As such, Margaret could have been exasperating, but Amy Adams has always been one of the most empathetic actresses around, so you can’t help but feel for her even if you may not really understand her.

As far as the story goes; Burton’s film doesn’t judge her. Working with the same writing team who did ED WOOD, Scott Alexander, and Larry Karaszewski, BIG EYES presents the facts of the case in the typical, amusing, Burton-esque way. Other than one bizarre episode where Waltz’ Walter looks like he’s going to murder his family, BIG EYES is relatively low-key for Burton, with only the Beatnik café sequences from the first half of the movie and the early images of fifties suburbia having that really distinct Burton look. The story is never anything less than intriguing, especially when they get to the court case, which one would be inclined to think they took liberties with, but apparently was actually toned down compared to what actually happened. Truly this is a story that’s stranger than fiction.

While certainly Amy Adams’ show, Christoph Waltz is clearly having the most fun, getting most of the movie’s big laughs (and it is quite funny even if it’s being marketed as serious awards bait), while Danny Huston, Terrence Stamp, Krysten Ritter and Coen Bros regular Jon Polito round out the terrific supporting cast. Burton regular Danny Elfman contributes a rather atypical score considering his other collaborations with Burton, and it’s nice to see both men stretch and succeed so effortlessly (or so it seems).

Hopefully Burton will continue working with Alexander and Karaszewski, as their script and his talents as a director seem to mesh incredibly well. At any rate, BIG EYES is Burton’s best work in a long time and one of the more enjoyable movies of the holiday season.

Big Eyes



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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.