Thursday, January 01, 2015

Movie Review - Big Eyes

Big Eyes (2014)
Starring Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Krysten Ritter, Danny Huston, Jason Schwartzman, and Terence Stamp
Directed by Tim Burton

The aesthetics of Big Eyes are certainly Tim Burton-esque in their 1950s/1960s stylizations although the quirky director has scaled back his trademark oddness, crafting a somewhat bland story out of the rather interesting true tale of Margaret Keane and her conniving husband Walter.  The weird lack of balance between comedy and drama causes Big Eyes to falter and an odd performance from one of the leads disappoints and further exacerbates the notion that this actor is a one-note performer.

That actor just so happens to be two-time Academy Award-winner Christoph Waltz who plays the aforementioned Walter.  When Margaret (played by Amy Adams) divorces her first husband, she runs to San Francisco with her young daughter.  Shortly after her arrival, she meets Walter who proposes to her mere weeks after meeting.  Walter purports to be an aspiring artist much like Margaret, although Walter's paintings all focus on the streets of Paris, whereas Margaret creates portraits of big eyed children who often look forlorn and saddened.  This initial artistic kinship Margaret feels is quickly diminished when Walter takes it upon himself to act as if Margaret's paintings are his own since female painters have such a tough time moving product.  Walter becomes a world-wide success, while Margaret is forced to paint images that she can't even call her own.

Unfortunately, the Walter character is oddly portrayed throughout in the kind of maniacal comedic manner by Waltz that we've seen him undertake in flicks like Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained.  Waltz has seemingly proven himself to be as one note an actor as Melissa McCarthy as of late (although Ms. McCarthy changed her tune a tad with this year's St. Vincent).  Another Oscar nomination for his role here would prove that the Academy lacks any kind of ingenuity as this is likely the worst role I've seen from him.  His Walter starts so cloyingly sweet and turns so quickly on a dime into a conniving jerk that his transformation seems implausible.  I'm sure, in all likelihood, there's truth behind this real life man's shift into deviousness, but Waltz (likely admittedly getting "help" from Burton and screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski) fails to give Walter any emotional arc from the film's onset to its conclusion.  The two distinct personalities we see that the beginning and the end feel like two different people rather than just one.

Adams fares better, although I also feel like she's simply playing a part we've seen her tackle before.  As the quiet and inwardly emotional Margaret, Adams hides her character's feelings, putting up walls to try and keep her husband from damaging her.  This doesn't allow us to fully connect with her, making the audience feel a bit distant from her desire to make herself be publicly known.  When she finally pushes herself to achieve this goal, it feels much too sudden and a bit uncharacteristic for her subtle character.

Granted, I'm making accusations about characters above who are REAL PEOPLE.  It's entirely possible that these REAL PEOPLE acted just like Adams and Waltz portray them.  However, in the grand scheme of movie, this keeps the audience at a distance because we can't latch on to their stories.  I will admit that despite my review full of qualms above, I wasn't ever bored during Big Eyes as I found its overarching story an intriguing one.  The film was actually better than my seemingly horrible review makes it out to be.  It's just unfortunate it wasn't better as I think there was potential here for something great.  Tim Burton, however, simply isn't able to determine what type of movie he wanted to tell -- light-hearted, serious, comedic, dramatic, biographical, fantastical, courtroom drama.  All of it is there -- just none of it is done up to par.

The RyMickey Rating:  C

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