Big Eyes Review
After reviewing the absolutely abysmal Dark Shadows, I mentioned that Tim Burton had nowhere to go but upwards. My hopes were high for Big Eyes, for several reasons.
First, it’s based on a true story, just like Burton’s fantastic Ed Wood. I hoped this would lend to the movie’s heart and substance. Second, there was no sign of regulars Johnny Depp or Helena Bonham Carter. I have nothing against those actors, but the last few collaborations between them and Burton have been lazy, by-the-numbers films. Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz typically take good roles, so I was happy to see them as the two leads. Third, it’s about artists, which ultimately is what Tim Burton is. I figured he was directing a movie about a topic he knows well.
So what did I think about Big Eyes? Read on to find out.
As usual, I’ll outline the positives first, and there are many.
- Amy Adams’ performance. She is stellar as the lead protagonist, and this was a challenging role. She had to run the gamut from fearful, to joyous, to fearful, to disgusted, to contented all in the span of the film’s run time. The story also takes place over the period of a decade, so she had to adapt her character to the changing of times as well. Her scenes of mental breakdown are heartbreaking to watch. Bravo.
- The first act of the film. The movie starts in a stressful situation and perfectly sets the tone for what’s to come. (Rather, what should have come.) The introduction of both Margaret and Walter Keane (Adams and Waltz, respectively) are handled with care and mastery. I was fully in the world of the story for the first thirty minutes. Unfortunately, it would not last.
- The sets and costumes. The film takes place in San Francisco in the 1960s, and perfectly captures the time period. A few times, I was reminded of the setting from Edward Scissorhands due to the cookie-cutter, monochrome houses.
- The cinematography. Burton’s odd angles, lines, and patterns and his use of vibrant colors clashing with greyscale tones are front and center in this movie. I was impressed that he was able to give his odd artistic trademark and apply it to a real-life story.
So, I liked it, right? Eh… Big Eyes has a lot of problems, and there were enough of them to ruin my enjoyment of the movie. Here are the major ones:
- Christoph Waltz’ performance. What the hell happened? I admire Waltz a lot, and he’s outstanding in Tarantino’s films. However, his performance is all over the place in this movie. It starts strong but ends as cartoony. He’s not convincing as a violent man, and his courtroom performance is cringe inducing. Waltz, I love ya, but have you ever heard of subtlety? I’m not sure if it was his fault or Burton’s, but it didn’t work for me.
- The script. As I mentioned, the first act of the movie is very strong and transports the viewer into the world of the movie. However, it gets off track about halfway through the movie and never flows back into a cohesive narrative. There a few unbelievable scenes; I’m thinking especially of the scene in which the daughter breaks into the art studio. This scene was awkwardly written and poorly acted by everyone except Adams.
- Too many useless characters and plot points that go nowhere. What was the point of Adams’ best friend? She could have been left out of the movie completely. The same can be said of Jason Schwartzman’s gallery director and the Asian religious evangelists. The biggest offender is Waltz’s daughter. She shows up in one scene and is never mentioned again. Many times, I felt like what I was watching was simply added to add minutes to the film’s runtime.
Final verdict: I didn’t like Big Eyes, but I didn’t necessarily dislike it, per se. My verdict is a resounding “meh.” There are enough well-crafted and intriguing elements for me to like, but there are too many glaring problems with it for me to recommend it. Looks like I’ll be waiting a bit longer for Burton’s return to form. Maybe Beetlejuice 2 will do it?
Story (The Script): ★★½ of 5
Art Direction: ★★★★ of 5
Acting: ★★★ of 5
Overall: ★★½ of 5
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