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Rediff.com  » Movies » Review: Big Eyes is a GREAT film

Review: Big Eyes is a GREAT film

January 09, 2015 16:59 IST

Amy Adams in Big EyesBig Eyes easily evokes a mix of fascination and empathy and you just can't stop looking, says Paloma Sharma.

"For most of history, Anonymous was a woman," said Virginia Woolf.

But such was not the case with Margaret.

Margaret was not nameless; her paintings were signed with her last name 'Keane'.

And so were her husband's.

Tim Burton's Big Eyes tells the true tale of an art fraud of epic proportions with Margaret Keane (played by Amy Adams) at the centre of it.

Margaret Keane, formerly Margaret Ulbrich, left her husband with her daughter Jane (Delaney Raye/Madeleine Arthur) in the 1950s, a time that, as the narrator tells us, wasn't particularly kind to women.

Mrs Ulbrich worked hard to make ends meet, until one day, while exhibiting her paintings at the local park she met the charming, well-to-do part-time real estate agent and wannabe artist, Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz). 

Margaret couldn't get anyone to buy her paintings of large-eyed children and animals. But Walter had the ability to sell anything, at any cost.

Together, they became an unstoppable force that created an art empire, except that only one of them got the credit for it.

Perhaps the best thing about Burton's Big Eyes, aside from Christoph Waltz, is that it features no pale faced men with outrageous hats or dead women coming back to life or characters called Frankenweenie.

Burton is back, and one hopes that he stays for good.

Much like his character in the film, Waltz clearly dominates the screen space with his fabulous fluctuations between the Walter Keane you know and love, and the Walter Keane that Margaret married.

Watch out for Waltz's courtroom theatrics! They will give you a laughter-induced stomach ache.

Amy Adams picks yet another real person to play after already having played characters based on real people in films like Julie and Julia and The Fighter. She melts perfectly into the mould that is Margaret Keane.

Adams has no trouble turning even the most ardent Walter Keane supporter into sympathetic putty in her hands with her portrayal of Keane.

Big Eyes is told, with much wit and beautifully fluid camerawork, almost exclusively from the perspective of Margaret Keane. Although there is no disbelieving Margaret's story, it would have been interesting to see Walter's side of things as well.

Watching Walter Keane go from delightful to delusional within a span of 106 minutes effectively establishes him as the villain of both the story and Margaret's life. But it does not answer several questions that arise in the viewer's mind.

Big Eyes checks almost all the boxes on the list of ingredients required to churn out a great film. But it could really use a better soundtrack.

The film could have been in the same league as Guardians Of The Galaxy or American Hustle if only it could crank up the volume. The music sounds too tame for a film based on a true story that is stranger than fiction. 

Even Lana del Rey's single falls flat, sounding terribly similar to her Gatsby track. Though it has a catchy chorus, the lyrics sound forcefully rhymed and it lacks depth in its writing. Del Rey's over recycled sound does more damage than good to a film so fresh.

Much like Margaret Keane's paintings, Big Eyes easily evokes a mix of fascination and empathy and you just can't stop looking.

Although set in the 1950s and 1960s, Big Eyes remains relevant -- at least in our part of the world -- with its portrayal of Margaret Keane's struggle to be taken seriously by the world of art and the world at large, while her husband has no trouble gaining appreciation for the same paintings.

Big Eyes is big on spunk and sure to be a big hit.

Rediff Rating: 

Paloma Sharma in Mumbai