At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Big Eyes “2014”

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Big Eyes “2014”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Biographical Comedy-Drama/ Stars: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston, Jon Polito, Krysten Ritter, James Saito, Jason Schwartzman, Terence Stamp, Madeleine Arthur, Delaney Raye/Runtime: 106 minutes

I think it should be noted right off the bat that there is a sneaky double entendre to be found in iconic film helmer Tim Burton’s untypical, at least when it comes to this man and his filmography, 2014 entry in the biopic genre Big Eyes. I say this because not only is this slice of cinematic pie’s title alluding to its subject, one Margaret Keane’s distinct trademark as an artist, but it also is a subtle hint toward how her husband was blind to darn near everything save for the proverbial almighty dollar instead of things that truly matter like respect for a person’s work, loving others, success of a personal nature, and even improving yourself instead of the slimy manner of acting as something he is most assuredly not. Yet this makes sense since the narrative occurs in a period of time where men, as sexist as it was, were looked at being the only gender capable of creativity let alone be taken seriously in society in the first place. Yes whilst the timeframe certainly aids the narrative, but the more expansive topic that should prove to be of some interest is the closer look at Margaret and Walter in regards to the human condition which aids one in standing up for the right thing and the other deploying whatever measures he can to find personal success by not only stealing someone else’s work, but by forcing someone else to continue to produce quality work for them to capitalize on. It is to that end then that Big Eyes is a wonderful and immersive character analysis with a relaxing flow to things, and a mild comedic bent especially as more and more of the truth comes to the forefront to say nothing of the fact that it manages to prove as evidence that Tim Burton thankfully is not what many might call a one-trick pony kind of film helmer.

The plot is as follows: Big Eyes tells us the story of a woman by the name of Margaret and her daughter Jane as they decide to run away from the aftermath of a relationship gone more sour than curdled milk and decide to hunt down a better life for the both of them even if doing so was against the societal norm at that particular time. We soon see that our intrepid heroine is a truly brilliant charter member of that elusive bunch known as artists and is able to find a job painting cribs even as her marital status has most see her as a social pariah of sorts. To that end, we see that when not at work our intrepid heroine sells her clearly quite beautiful artwork for nowhere even close to their true value at art fairs both to make some extra money and to try and acquire some kind of notice from the community at large. Yet it is at one of these fairs that her life is changed forever due to meeting a man and fellow artist by the name of Walter who manages to succeed in wooing, starting a relationship with her, and eventually putting a ring on her finger as well. Suffice it to say that this seems like a true match made possible by God and the angels right? Wrong. Incidentally proof of that opinion I just offered up to you dear reader is shortly thereafter provided posthaste when we see that Walter is actually able to sell some of Margaret’s paintings, but with the caveat being that he claims credit for her work. To say that Margaret isn’t happy about that would be a mild understatement, but the lure of actually making a serious bit of money for her work manages to curb the tide…..for a moment. This is because as we see her artwork, claimed by Walter as his own, soon turns into a quite successful venture, we see our intrepid heroine begin to start despising Walter, his actions, and just everything about the guy whilst all the while he continues to relish the perks and benefits that come with being a true sensation in every sense of the word. Eventually though something’s gotta give and in this case that most certainly is true, but I honestly think that is something I will leave you to discover for yourself…

Now I should point out that in many respects I can see how this movie, by and large, does appear to be quite the distinct movie for Tim Burton seeing as nowhere to be found is his distinct pitch black, gloomy, quirky, and not exactly typical style that has made this unique visionary a household name, but thankfully still gives him the chance to present us with a narrative that is presented in a more typical manner as shown herein. Be that as it may be, Burton’s distinct flair is still evident in how colorful everything is, the subtle comedy which gets more apparent near the conclusion when one individual for all intents and purposes becomes a sideshow and a main topic of paintings that operate as a reminder of his typical style with the eyes in the paintings functioning as something slightly unnerving yet crafted as a legit manner of telling a story. Also to his credit, Burton is able to give this slice of cinematic pie a distinct bent as well as shot of energy and whimsicalness that few other movie helmers may have been able to in bringing Margaret’s story to life. Burton also chooses to never once lessen things and instead opts for simply underscore the proceedings with a lightly sketched flow in a way that feels similar to how our intrepid heroine paints her pictures. Thus it really does seem like Burton was the best choice to take the lead on this slice of cinematic pie. This is because Burton really does seem more at ease operating with a more relaxed and less straight laced atmosphere on set and making movies that are more on the fringe than what might be typically seen as mainstream cinema. Ultimately, though Burton is able to give this narrative the justice it rightfully deserves whilst also saying what needed to be said, sculpting an engaging yarn, and giving just enough in the way of artistic liberty to the more superficial ingredients thus resulting in a slice of cinematic pie that is worthy to be called a Tim Burton film without tossing on the bonfire the honesty at the heart of both the people and the tale they are involved in.

Also aiding this slice of cinematic pie immensely is the fact that it is able to share with us a dynamic duo of lead performances leading the way for a cast that is just as terrific as they are. This starts with the always-delightful Amy Adams as Margaret and she is absolutely terrific. Indeed Adams does a great job at making sure this character is not a woman being imprisoned by her husband, but rather is someone who is regretting more and more their agreeing to and participating in this plot of sorts. Yes it is true that the character of Margaret does benefit from everything that this scheme brings her including money, a new home, and a better life for her and Jane, the difference is that not only does she have infinitely more morality than Walter, but also she just wants credit for the work she has done and which Walter has stolen from her. Thus we see that she really has quite the intriguing conundrum on her hands since she is a woman of principle, but that principle must be locked up in the attic where she has been painting all this artwork in secret. Suffice it to say then that it is the facts that not only is she the exact opposite of the type of person her leech of a husband is to say nothing of she uses her steadily growing resentment and anger in order to try and take control of her life again that truly make her not only quite the riveting character, but also an intriguing analysis into the human condition especially with the dichotomy that is part of the core of her as a character. We also get delightful work here from Christoph Waltz whose portrayal of Walter is quite the intriguing performance. This is because here is a man who claims he wants the best for his wife yet the moment an opportunity arises for her to get the recognition that she clearly and rightfully deserves he snatches it away from her and claims it as his own thus starting a scheme that he soon finds he must try to stay one step ahead of lest the whole house of cards collapse right on top of him. At the same time, he is also seemingly sneaky and composed, but that is just a cover for the fact that the man is an egomaniac who is so enraptured with this false life he has created for himself that he flies off the handle whenever people criticize the artwork he didn’t even paint in the first place.  To that end, we see that this is a man who will do just about anything necessary to keep this fib afloat for as long as possible even if doing so means he will possibly exposed and lose everything when it is finally pulled into the light for all to see. Suffice it to say then that Waltz is truly riveting in this as not only does he do a great job at showing the subtle psychotic/egomaniac underneath the surface, but also in his attempts to keep his world afloat as the lie he has concocted continues to grow and spread out under him.

All in all I think it is safe to say that the slice of cinematic pie known as Big Eyes is not just an entry in the genre of movie magic known as the biopic. Rather, it is also a riveting analysis of the human condition, how said connection is viewed by people of all sorts, and ultimately how it can change and be molded as time goes on. To that end, this slice of cinematic pie is one that is a showcase for a pair of morally distinct individuals who come together under perhaps not the most integrity-filled of circumstances to say nothing of the collateral damage of a teeny tiny fib that quickly grows into a giant blob of misery and anguish. Misery for our heroine since she has to see the success she’s always wanted from the sidelines and for her slimy spouse misery at having to continually be creative at keeping the lie afloat in a variety of different ways whilst witnessing Margaret possess the talent he always felt should be his. Suffice it to say then that even though this film is not exactly what you might expect from a film being helmed by unique auteur Tim Burton it’s still in many respects a slice of cinematic pie that Burton would make and the result is a wonderful little film that you and the art lovers in your life will enjoy time and time again. On a scale of 1-5  I give Big Eyes “2014” a solid 3.5 out of 5.