(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was for a poem featuring alliteration, one of my favorite poetic tools, which I employed with abandon.)
“She stares her sadness through my soul,”
The mother in the market said.
“This youth is yearning to be whole,”
The art collector commented.
“This portrait proves the painter’s skill,”
The masses mused with untrained eye.
“This artless amateur’s a shill,”
The critics coughed to clarify.
Like Mona Lisa’s murky mien,
Those sightly saucers still entreat,
With varied views from clerk or queen,
Depending on the eyes they meet.
MPAA rating: PG-13
I’m not the biggest fan of Tim Burton and his penchant for macabre weirdness. In fact, James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are the only films of his that I can say I really like, and even then with reservations (Big Fish and Batman were all right too). He’s still a talented enough director that a step away from his comfort zone of weirdness could produce something to my liking, and Big Eyes is just that. It’s a Tim Burton film that proves that his style need not be synonymous with grotesque.
While they’re not as prevalent nowadays, most people have probably seen those paintings of big-eyed waifs staring mournfully ahead, but I wasn’t aware of the story of fraud behind them. Amy Adams plays Margaret Keane, who after divorcing and moving to San Francisco with her daughter, meets the incredibly charismatic Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz). After bonding a bit on their mutual love for painting, they marry, only for Walter’s promotion of Margaret’s work to reveal his looseness with the truth. While the idea of him technically “stealing” her work and claiming to be the artist seems hard to believe, it happens gradually and credibly, the result of Walter’s charm and Margaret’s timidity. It’s a lie that quickly grows out of control, with Margaret churning out new works from a secret studio and Walter becoming ever more passionate in protecting the lie. The way it plays out in the end is a testament to the truth always coming to light, and how it does is made more satisfying by the fact that it actually happened that way.
While Big Eyes is unlikely to be counted among the best films “based on a true story,” it’s solid all the way around, particularly in the casting of its two leads. Amy Adams excels in the role of a diffident artist struggling to work up her nerve, while Waltz brings the same gregarious magnetism that won him two Oscars, making Walter an amiable if unctuous fellow from the start who gets nastier with time. The mix of their two personalities makes the tale believable, and the film does give credit to Walter for his brilliant marketing strategies in disseminating the paintings. Burton presents it all in a pleasantly eccentric but straightforward style, only veering into odd territory a couple times with a hallucination had by an over-stressed Margaret. Burton obviously prefers his beloved macabre subjects, but for those like me who view them with more appreciation than enjoyment, a film like Big Eyes is a welcome change.
Best line: (Ruben, an art dealer) “Why are their eyes so big?” (Walter) “Eyes are the windows to the soul!”
Rank: List Runner-Up
© 2017 S.G. Liput
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