A drama about the awakening of painter Margaret Keane, her phenomenal success in the 1950s, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband, who claimed credit for her works in the 1960s.
In San Francisco in the 1950s, Margaret was a woman trying to make it on her own after leaving her husband with only her daughter and her paintings. She meets gregarious ladies' man and fellow painter Walter Keane in a park while she was struggling to make an impact with her drawings of children with big eyes. The two quickly become a pair with outgoing Walter selling their paintings and quiet Margaret holed up at home painting even more children with big eyes. But Walter's actually selling her paintings as his own. A clash of financial success and critical failure soon sends Margaret reeling in her life of lies. With Walter still living the high life, Margaret's going to have to try making it on her own again and re-claiming her name and her paintings. Written by
Amy Adams portrayed Lois Lane in the 2013 Man of Steel. Terence Stamp who portrays the New York Times art critic in Big Eyes had previously portrayed General Zod in 1980's Superman II. See more »
"Tomorrow Forever", the UNICEF painting Keane painted for the 1964 Worlds Fair, was never actually mounted in the Hall of Education. Robert Moses, who had control over everything that was included in the fair, hated it. Once New York Times critic Canady trashed it after seeing a photograph of it, Moses had it thrown into the garbage. See more »
Sweep the gutters before the taste police arrive.
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Tim Burton's touching dramatization of the relationship of Margaret and Walter Keane almost works but somehow the dramatic arc seems arbitrary and we must accept the developments in their story as much from what the characters announce about themselves as from what we see enacted emotionally. Essentially, the husband is what we might call a pathological liar and the wife is one of the most gullible and trusting people who ever lived.
The shy, self-effacing art school graduate Margaret Ulbrich specialized in painting portraits of children with big, sad eyes which she would sell at street fairs for pocket change. When she walked out on her husband in 1958 to make a new life for herself and her daughter in San Francisco, she met and married the aggressive Walter Keane, a real estate broker who pretended to be a Sunday painter but was actually a plagiarist with marketing skills who took over the marketing of Margaret's works and sold them under his own name, first on canvas and then as mass produced posters, becoming a well-known purveyor of mid-20th-century kitsch who, as his character claims in the film, inspired Andy Warhol.
Amy Adams is appropriately choked up and tremulous as Margaret but Christoph Waltz is an odd choice for Walter. For starters, the character is as American as the Great Plains but Waltz cannot entirely obliterate his Austrian accent; it colors his every utterance. Then, his theatrical mannerisms make him seem more like someone with Multiple Personality Disorder than a mere Jekyll-and-Hyde, as his wife describes him at one point. Waltz entertains us, and we are conscious that we are seeing a bravura performance, but we are not getting the human being named Walter Keane.
Burton makes very good use of the singularly appealing Terence Stamp as John Canaday, a highbrow New York Times art critic who lambasts the Keane oeuvre in print, leading to a confrontation at a cocktail party a fire and ice moment and a high point of the film.
The film leaves a touching, but light impression, much like the big-eyed paintings at its center.
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