Big Eyes begins in 1958 in North California where the artist Margaret Ulrich (Amy Adams) leaves her town and her first marriage behind, to set a new life in San Francisco with her little daughter and paintings on the back seat. While she is trying to adapt a new life with a new job in a furniture company, she meets Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz) who introduces himself as an artist that has to deal with real estate business to support himself better as an artist. Margaret, influenced by Walter and his romantic gestures, accepts his proposal, and the couple gets married.
Margaret Keane keeps on drawing her expressionistic paintings that are typically known for her saucer-eyed creations and as she calls them ‘eyes are windows to the soul’. The honey months of this supportive and happy marriage will evolve into something harsh after Walter initiates a business on the art of Margaret’s by acknowledging that this artwork belongs to his own.
Based on a true story, it shows, mainly, the cruel face of human soul that can spread like an opportunistic infection when it finds a liable environment in all means. The story by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood, Man on the Moon) progresses in an appreciable balance where Walter‘s commercial talent becomes insidiously an evil for the family. The dramatic climax in this true story is where Margaret accepts Walter‘s lies as truth at first hand, and allows him to pursue his lies. The writers have done a successful job; first, by having an in-depth investigation over the event and characters, second by aligning them in a perfect order easily to follow, third by enriching the plot with supporting scenes such as the Good vs Bad Art discussions and the role of the critic in arts, and fifth by achieving to take us sides with Margaret. Perhaps, there are only two questions that could be raised regarding the script: One of them is whether it could have been a rather soft transition regarding that psychopathic match striking scene to be more in line with Walter‘s personality that has been expressed till that moment. The other one is whether Margaret‘s decision to divorce Walter could have been based on a more convincing or solid ground rather than a spiritualistic awakening.
Amy Adams as Margaret does a great acting to display this sensitive and vulnerable beautiful soul. She acts so realistically naive and over-patient that the audience is fully engaged to the painter with deep sympathies by the end of the movie. Christoph Waltz as Walter draws a cartoonish character that sometimes takes us to Hans Landa in Inglorious Bastards.
It is noted that Margaret Ulrich, the real self, can also be seen in the movie on a park bench reading a book when Margaret and Walter are in front of the San Francisco palace of Fine Arts. As another available filming note, some of the outdoors have been shot in Vancouver, Canada, where the steepy streets resemble San Francisco very much.
Tim Burton‘s static camera and symmetric shoots in the introduction gives us the hints of a dramatically balanced and perspectively designed 106 minutes movie. Together with Bruno Delbonnel‘s (Amélie, Inside Llewyn Davis) cinematography, Burton uses a non-invasive technique with no brain- and eye-killing approach but a highly internally penetrating artistically portray. Yet, the photography is literally customized for Big Eyes‘ 1950s and 1960s atmosphere.
Burton, who has collected himself Margaret Keane’s artwork for years, and Big Eyes invites Burton fans and cinema lovers to see the transforming story of an initially charming husband into a domineering monster over a naive and talented wife, just maybe an everyday life of a woman on the edges of losing her voice in a male dominant environment.