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Big Eyes (9/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 104 minutes.

OK for children.

One of the reasons I enjoyed this film is that I knew nothing about the story. Had I known the story, it probably wouldn’t have been so enjoyable. It’s not possible to write a review of this without filling it with spoilers. So my recommendation is, if you don’t know the story, stop reading here and go see the movie because it is very well done.

Based on a true story of the woman who created the Big Eyes paintings that became so popular in the mid-20th Century, Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) and her husband, Walter (Christoph Waltz), director Tim Burton has produced a mesmerizing story of an exploited wife from a good script with credits to Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. Burton does a terrific job of recreating the world of the 50s and 60s in which these events occurred.

Adams is simply superb. She insisted on getting to know Margaret somewhat before tackling the role and spent time with her, talking with her and watching her paint.

I’ve never known Waltz to give a bad performance, but I came out of the film dissatisfied with his performance. Then I read the production notes and discovered the possible reason. Unlike Adams, Waltz eschewed knowing anything about Walter. He says, “I stayed away from everything that might resemble a real life in reference to Margaret and Walter and this whole thing because what am I supposed to do with it? I’m not making a documentary, I’m playing a part and I think drama has a different purpose in our lives and our society.”

That ignorance about Walter shines through his performance and it explains why Waltz’s representation of Walter didn’t ring true for me. Walter was a liar and exploiter, but he was also a marketing genius, making millions of dollars for Margaret and him, and becoming a household name. Forget the art and deception, that takes a certain ability.

But this is really the story of Margaret and the way she was treated by Walter. Adams gives a spot on, Oscar®-worthy performance that grabs you and won’t let go. She’s as good here as she’s ever been.