Monday, 11 May 2015

Big Eyes

I’m going to start with something that could anger a lot of people. Here goes…I don’t like Tim Burton. I don’t like his quirky, gothic style. I don’t like his insistence on casting Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in everything he does. Okay, I didn’t mind Beetlejuice. In its day it was fresh and unique, but Burton has since done the same nonsense over and over again. However, there was one film Burton made that thoroughly impressed me. That film was Ed Wood. Ed Wood was an excellent biopic of the eccentric director Edward D. Wood Jr, and starred a surprisingly good Depp in the title role. It featured hardly any of the unusual and macabre imagery that usually dominate Burton’s films, and I thought to myself “hey, maybe this Burton guy is alright after all”. But then he gave us the abysmal Planet of the Apes remake and several films of Johnny Depp being weird in strange, dark, trippy worlds. I know a lot of people like that kind of thing and I respect that - it’s a style you either get or don’t. I don’t. For me, all hope with Burton was lost and I gave up on him. But then came Big Eyes

Directed by Tim Burton and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Big Eyes, a spectacular return to form for Burton, who delivers another straight-faced biopic like Ed Wood. Serving as an interesting story about ego and jealousy, but also a tale of historical sexual inequality, Big Eyes reminds us how normal Burton can be and, in my opinion, how much better he is in these instances.

Based on true events, Big Eyes recounts the tale of Walter and Margaret Keane. In 1958, Margaret (Amy Adams) was an unsuccessful and ignored street artist, painting portraits of children with unusually large eyes. She meets Walter Keane, a charismatic artist with a head for business who, when Margaret’s paintings gain interest, takes responsibility for the work and becomes a huge celebrity in the art world. As stated in the opening sequence; “the 1950s were a great time if you were a man”, and thus it was a lot easier for the paintings to sell for higher value if people thought a man had painted them. But as the years go by and Walter becomes more successful, the couple begin to tear apart.

The entire cast play it brilliantly but after all is said and done, this is a film of two performances – Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams as Walter and Margaret. Don’t get me wrong, Amy Adams was great. She deserved the Golden Globe she was awarded for her performance. But I can’t help feeling Christoph Waltz out-shone her in every scene as the bitter and short-tempered Walter. Despite his distinctive face and accent, I forgot I was watching Waltz. To me, that was Walter Keane up there. Adams didn’t have that effect on me. But then I’ve seen a lot of her in cinema recently, with performances in American Hustle, Her and more still fresh in my mind - I haven’t seen Waltz since his phenomenal performance in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. I suppose the more films you appear in, the more your audience will get used to seeing you. And Amy Adams tends to play the same roles in most films anyway, bless her.

Visually, Big Eyes is stunning. The film looks like a living painting, especially during the gorgeous CGI landscape-filled opening credits. But even in dialogue-driven interior scenes, the film’s beautiful colour palette really feels like 1950s technicolour cinema, which when added to the fantastic costume and set design, lends itself to some lovely era authenticity. 

But it wasn’t perfect. There was one rather Burtonesque sequence (ol’ Tim just couldn’t help himself) in which Margaret hallucinates whilst shopping and sees all the other shoppers as having the big eyes she’s been painting. As it was just the one isolated sequence, it didn’t bother me too much. But at the same time, it felt shoved in for the sake of it and only there to satisfy fans of Burton’s wacky iconography. Other than that minor hiccup, the first chunk of the film was great. On par with Ed Wood, even. But around an hour into Big Eyes, the film lagged a bit before suffering a rather messy, albeit brief, tonal shift into almost slasher movie territory. Thankfully, after this sequence the film went back to the quality of the first half and built to a satisfying climax.

In conclusion, Big Eyes isn’t as good as Ed Wood. But on the whole, it reminds you what Burton is capable of without relying on weird shit and Johnny Depp. It’s not perfect but it’s a heck of a lot better than anything else he has put out in the last 20 years.

Big Eyes is an entertaining couple of hours and paints 3/5 onto the canvas.


Sam Love

Big Eyes at CeX

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