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Rated 2.95 stars
by 268 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Symbiotic Blues
by Betty Jo Tucker

Big Eyes had me squirming in my seat for most of its running time. Because the film is based on a true story, I couldn’t help feeling embarrassed for the real people being depicted on screen. And I kept thinking about how much dramatic license might have been involved in order to entertain us. Directed by Tim Burton from a screenplay by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (the same trio responsible for Ed Wood), the movie takes place during the 1950s/1960s and deals with one of the most famous art frauds in U.S. history. It co-stars Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz as Margaret and Walter Keane, a married couple who both claimed to be the creator of popular paintings showing little children with enormous eyes.

He steals her work.

Why does he lie?

She goes along

with just a sigh.    


Money flows in,

making them rich.

So she holds back,

causing no hitch.   


As years go by,

her art earns fame.

But he’s the one

who’s got the name.


Big Eyes explores

the dangers here --

but may not tell

the truth, I fear.


One miscast role

makes scenes unreal.

It’s Christoph Waltz.

How sad I feel!

In this film version, Walter emerges as a manipulator extraordinaire who takes advantage of his wife’s talent. Margaret allows him to continue passing her work off as his because he convinces her “a woman’s art won’t be taken seriously.” Remember, this is the 1950s! Margaret also has a daughter from a previous marriage, so she’s glad to have money coming in. Unfortunately, things get out of hand as Walter becomes more and more demanding. Margaret finally decides to tell the truth to the world. A court battle ensues.

Although I admire both Waltz and Adams as actors, they seem mismatched here. Adams (American Hustle) projects a wide range of emotions, but Waltz overacts outrageously, especially in the trial sequence. Is this the same guy who was so great in two Quentin Tarantino films (Django Unchained and Inglourious Basterds) and won Oscars for his splendid performances?

On the positive side, Big Eyes looks and sounds good, thanks to Bruno Delbonnel’s (A Very Long Engagement) pleasing cinematography and Danny Elfman’s (Big Fish) surprisingly understated background music. Realistic period costumes and sets also add to the film’s visual appeal. Happily, the movie features a priceless supporting turn by Terence Stamp (The Adjustment Bureau) as a snarky art critic who wonders why anyone would admit to painting all those “big eyes” pictures.  

Art is what you can get away with. – Andy Warhol

The eyes are the window to your soul. – William Shakespeare

(Released by The Weinstein Company and rated “PG-13” for thematic elements and brief strong language.)

For more information about Big Eyes, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website.

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