Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Movie with Abe: Big Eyes

Big Eyes
Directed by Tim Burton
Released December 25, 2014

Tim Burton doesn’t make normal movies. His projects usually involve fantasy or science fiction and involve outrageous characters that seem cartoonish even if they aren’t actually cartoons. It’s something he fully embraces, and the world has seen “Edward Scissorhands,” “Mars Attacks,” “Big Fish,” and more as a result. What Burton’s resume means, however, is that when he takes on a subject that is much more realistic, the resulting film is still going to be extraordinarily fantastical and strange. The story of a female painter in the 1950s and 1960s whose husband took credit for all of her paintings is just that subject, which makes for the odd and eccentric “Big Eyes.”

Margaret Ulbrich (Amy Adams) is first shown leaving her unseen husband with her young daughter to head for San Francisco, where she makes her best effort to sell her paintings, which feature young children with big, sad eyes. While doing portraits in the park, Margaret is approached by the suave Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), who effortlessly seduces her and tells her just how incredible he thinks she is as an artist. Walter’s business acumen leads to galleries of their artwork together, though jealous instinct kicks in when the initially kindhearted husband realizes that most prefer his wife’s art to his. Walter wastes no time in usurping all the glory and taking the credit, leaving Margaret behind closed doors producing painting after painting in solitude each day.

This story isn’t all that outlandish, but its scope certainly is. Money and fame drive Walter’s ego, and he begins demanding bigger and better things from an exasperated Margaret, who grows less and less enamored with her manipulative husband’s controlling ways as time goes on. It’s hard to believe that this actually happened, but I’m sure similar injustices have occurred and still do when one party demeans the other and convinces them that this is the smartest and soundest plan.

Burton gives the film some of his own touches, presenting everything in bright, pastel colors and framing the story within this exaggerated universe. Both Margaret and Walter pop out of the screen, each hidden behind makeup and wigs designed to make them look different than the two quality actors, who have been better elsewhere, usually do. It’s effective to a degree but also just too bizarre, and the film’s general trajectory mirrors that, initially interesting but ultimately just a bit too weird. It’s been hard to get the show’s Golden Globe-nominated melancholy theme song “Big Eyes,” out of my head, and it perfectly captures the experience. This film was classified a comedy by the Golden Globes, and in some ways, it is, but it’s also plainly just a strange experience, one that is difficult to connect to and just as difficult to forget.


No comments: