Big Eyes: A Mars vs Venus review

Big Eyes: A Mars vs Venus review

STARRING: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston, Krysten Ritter, Delaney Raye

DIRECTOR: Tim Burton

THE SKINNY: Single mum Margaret (Adams) loves to paint big-eyed waifs back in the 50s. She marries the fast-talking real estate agent Walter Keane (Waltz), who starts selling her paintings under his own name. The pair make a fortune, but cracks eventually form in their relationship as Margaret begins to resent keeping her talent a secret. Based on the true story of artist Margaret Keane.


A Mars look by Jason Johnson

This is one of Burton's best films, and he has made many great ones.

He loves to tell stories about misfits in general and artists in particular.

Almost all his films are about being an artist on some level, from Edward Scissorhands to Mars Attacks! to Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.

He tends to focus on creative characters.

Burton of course relates to these folks, and in Big Eyes, he has the benefit of dealing directly with a real artist.

The basic theme of the flick is that creative people are creative people because they are creative people.

I am not being flippant.

What separates Margaret from her husband is that she is more interested in creating beauty than making money.

If you have dedicated your life to some sort of craft, you will relate.

I love Adams' beautiful performance as Margaret, a woman who is never happier than when she is daubing paint on canvas. She is the calm centre in a whirlwind of money and hype.

Throughout the insanity, until things get dangerous, she is able to maintain her equanimity and even her sense of humour.

In my experience, this is what artists are like, the ones whom I admire anyway.

I am glad they get this sort of recognition every once in a while.

A Venus look by Joanne Soh

I can see why Burton is drawn to this story.

The eccentricity of the Margaret-Walter relationship, how the public is easily swayed by the media and the waifish paintings themselves are magnetic.

Presented in a bright, colourful palette, this is most certainly a refreshing change from Burton's dark gothic offerings.

This is not the first time Burton's done a biopic - there was the Oscar-winning Ed Wood.

While Johnny Depp was the star of that 1994 film, in Big Eyes, the focus is not that clear-cut.

Sure, it is about Margaret, her paintings, and how she subsequently becomes a prisoner in her own home, isolated from friends and society.

So why does it looks like Waltz is the star?

Just like how his character, Walter, steals the limelight. He shoves Adams into a corner with his over-the-top portrayal of a con-man.

That last act, where he arrogantly defends himself in court, is the ultimate cheesy performance.

His caricature of Walter makes Margaret even more of a loser - utterly gullible, and not able to live without a man.

I do not think the real Margaret was such a doormat.

Adams shows Margaret's torment, but this fable does not quite tell us the story behind those big eyes.

THE CONSENSUS: Burton is fantastic at celebrating quirky artists, but this unbalanced biopic puts its leading lady in the shadows.

This article was first published on Jan 28, 2015.
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