By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
The question of what makes pop art marketable is at the center of what Tim Burton’s Big Eyes is about. When Margaret Keane (born Peggy Doris Hawkins, and played by Amy Adams) leaves one poisonous relationship only to enter another, the question of how a philandering new husband commercializing her work can get away with lies really begs further queries about what enjoyment of working in the artistic medium is about. When he can not give a straight answer, the issue of whether he’s ever been a true artist himself really does not need a response. The way Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz) acts, guilt and greed are painted on his face.
When Andy Warhol said, “If Keane’s art was really so bad, then so many people wouldn’t like it,” the tone has been set for this film. To have an afterwards from him might have answered the question if he felt hoodwinked too. Instead the movie sees art critic (Terence Stamp) knowing that Walter Keene is a sham. As much as Walter likes to believe that he is talented, his gift for gab is the only skill he has. This character is more of a marketing genius than an artistic hack. Waltz never fails to deliver in any of the roles he plays. Some viewers may well have to wonder what kind of psychosis the real Walter had.
To continually believe that he created the style of big eyes as a window to an individual’s soul suggests that he has a small view of the world. To keep on selling as much as he did of Margaret’s work shows he’s better off being a used car salesman than anything else. True artists have this unbridled passion in what they enjoy creating for themselves than to simply sell off with a set dollar value. Struggling is a fact of life, and Amy Adams shows that in her performance. It’s not a small wonder that she was awarded a Golden Globe for her work in this movie last Sunday.
To see how she gained strength after decades of naïvety makes for a fine direction by Burton; he knew what he wanted to focus on and yet instill a touch of his trademark style. No movie made by him is ever complete without some surrealistic moments. Usually the movies made by him are for a speciality market, and Big Eyes is a departure from his norm. This movie covers a lot of ground as a biopic and he does a great job at becoming a touch commercial without ever compromising on his principles as an auteur filmmaker. To watch what he will originally produce next will have fans waiting with bated breaths.
4 Stars out of 5