There’s a scene in “Big Eyes” where a habitué of a pub walks past a set of paintings with a couple of women, and when pointed to the paintings by one of them, the Italian (Aaron Craven) goes ga-ga about the paintings. He asks around about the painter. And then, the camera looks at Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, as they look at the potential buyer. Both are silent. The background score quavers in anticipation. And so do you, because you know that Christoph Waltz’s character (Walter Keane) will step forward and take credit, even if it is his wife, Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), who’s the painter. That’s precisely what happens. That’s also precisely what director Tim Burton’s movie, “Big Eyes”, is all about. Based on the fantastic true story of Margaret Keane and her franchise of big eyes paintings that shook the art world, rustled up mass buying of painting prints, and made art critics cringe in horror, Tim Burton handles his movie canvas with the same inquisitive, semi-mischievous, and gleeful stroke as his earlier works. Only here, he’s far more restrained, mellow, and the kookiest thing about this movie is its true story. And there’s some breathtaking cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel. The opening shot of when Margaret leaves her current husband and drives out town with her little daughter – that countryside frame is sure to take your breath away. Likewise for later when Margaret settles in Honolulu, you wish you could join her there, and not just because she’s Amy Adams.
Big Eyes has a cast that’s simply outstanding in their understated movements of big drama. Amy Adams is a winner, her own eyes becoming increasingly sadder and helpless, trapped in a world of big sad eyes that are her own making and choice. Christoph Waltz is so good, he gets increasingly unlikeable and insufferable as the movie progresses. By the time he gets to the ludicrous courtroom scene, where he plays both the lawyer and the defendant, you cringe, you clench your fists and you groan inwardly. And of course, you want give one across his pompous face. You wish you’d seen more of the superb Danny Huston, who, as reporter Dick Nolan, narrates the movie tale. He’s superb as he discovers the truth behind his biggest story and financial success. And Jason Schwartzman as the disdainful gallery owner wins it with some of the best lines in the movie.
Plus, Big Eyes has a beautiful, big music score by Danny Elfman. There’s typical Elfman notes here, but all of them superb, as the background score soars, claps, elevates, and gives you hope even when it looks as if there’s none. And the beautiful “Big Eyes” song performed by Lana Del Rey, that’s used so hauntingly and effectively in the movie, your mouth is almost the shape of those big eyes.
Big Eyes is a triumph, as it breaks director Tim Burton’s own cell of phantasmagorical images, just as Margaret Keane breaks out and proves that “I can fly”.
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