In 1958, Margaret Ulbrich (Amy Adams) escapes an abusive husband with a daughter in tow, and settles in withthe beatnik crowd in San Francisco, where she becomes a street artist, and meets a charismatic street artist named Walter Keane. (Christoph Waltz)After a whirlwind romance, the two get married. Walter tries to get Margaret’s art in a gallery, by passing it off as his own, but the gallery owner, a man named Ruben (Jason Schwartzman) is only enamored with abstract art, he is not impressed with the doe-eyed children, so Walter makes a deal with a bar owner named Banducci (Jon Polito) to hang Margaret’s art in his bar, again he takes credit for her work, which annoys her, but since he is an extraordinary salesman, and she prefers to paint, she relents and gives tacit agreement to Walter putting his name on her paintings. The partnership works, Walter is a master marketer, instead of selling one painting for 500 dollars, he mass produces prints of her work, and makes them both wildly rich. But Margaret is not happy, and when Margaret paints a self-portrait, and puts her own name on it, Walter gets verbally abusive, and tells her to keep painting her doe-eyed children. But one day, Margaret discovers something about Walter that is unforgivable. What is his secret? What effect does the revelation have on their marriage, and their business arrangement?
I wanted to like this movie. I like Amy Adams, I like Christoph Waltz, but I did not like this movie. My dislike starts almost immediately with the narration that accompanies this film minutes after this movie begins, this movie does not need narration right from the start, it does not need narration at all. Moreover, the narration is done by a tangential character and that makes it all the more confusing. The story starts off encouragingly enough, with Margaret Ulbrich finding peace in the pre-hippie days of San Francisco, with a seemingly kindred spirit, but soon enough the story goes off the rails and becomes as exaggerated as the eyes on Margaret Keane’s paintings, and since I didn’t know how much is true and how much is cinematic puffery. The whole movie has the feel of a Lifetime Network movie, complete with laughably predictable ending.
The acting is shockingly bad from two such talented actors. Amy Adams dons a blonde fright wig, and a bad Southern accent, it’s shocking to me that she was considered an Academy Award nominee for this role. I expected more from Waltz, but he too struggles with an American accent and lays the ham-handed performance on thick with his portrayal as the mercurial manic Walter Keane. I understand he has to show the duality of the character, but a little subtlety would have gone a long way here. And Delaney Ray who plays the younger version of Keane’s daughter is precocious to an annoying extent, why must children be wise beyond their years, every single time?
This was a Tim Burton movie, but only one scene really had the look of a Tim Burton film, otherwise it was conventionally bland. Why have Tim Burton direct if he can’t add visual flourishes to his films, the pacing was dull. The movie lasts longer than it should by about 10 minutes, and Burton only gets mediocre performances from his cast.
Big Eyes: I wasn’t too keen on it.