Big Eyes

If you had a wife with a talent for art, but who lacked the drive to promote herself and her work, which just happened to be your specialty, what would you do? 

Big Eyes is Tim Burton’s ode to the sensitive shy artist Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) and the people who helped and took advantage of her. It’s a biographical film whose story is as strange and captivating as her paintings.

Keane’s unique trademark style consisted of eerie lost girls known as waifs with dark eyes as big as pancakes that looked straight out at the viewer. Margaret painted her subjects with oversized eyes so sad and lonely that they appeared out of all proportion to the rest of the faces that were sometimes set among dingy stark alleyways. 

The driving force behind the popularity of Margaret’s big eyed paintings in the 1950s and 60s is a charming self-promoter and plagiarist Walter Keane, played with relish by Chistoph Waltz - Django Unchained (2012), who claimed to be the creator of Margaret’s paintings, believing that people wouldn’t buy or pay as much for works by a female artist. 

Walter Keane’s crime was not that he promoted his wife’s work and made her paintings an international sensation, although some might argue that it was a crime of bad taste. His crime was that he insisted that he had painted them himself and then convinced his wife to play along by hiding the truth. 

What’s the harm in a little white lie if it brings riches beyond your imagination? After all, he was the one who had done all the promotional leg work, coming up with the ideas to get her paintings noticed by the biggest celebrities and they were both benefiting from all the fame and money coming their way. 

Tim Burton who is an avid collector of Margaret Keane’s popular doe eyed portraits has created a beautiful, sometimes hilarious and thoroughly enjoyable film which doesn’t even look much like a typical Tim Burton film.

Big Eyes is a movie that’s most like one of Burton’s other fun charming conman tales, Big Fish (2003); about a man child who’s living in an imaginary world of wonder. Some comparisons can also be drawn to the documentary My Kid Could Paint That (2007), a controversial story about a father who claimed that his 4 year old daughter was a prodigy who painted abstract art that sold for thousands of dollars.

Amy Adams plays the conflicted and frustrated artist who longed to be recognized for her talents but was kept isolated from her friends and family by her dominating husband to prevent her from revealing the fraud scheme and losing everything they’d achieved.

But it’s Christoph Waltz who almost steals the show with his charming maniacal performance as the sly manipulative Walter Keane, whose unfulfilled ambitions of being a famous artist drove him to plagiarize other's work instead.

Margaret painted from the heart and her prolific work acquired many admirers including Andy Warhol. She believed that the eyes were the window to the soul and she was able to express the essence of people and animals through her unique portraits. 

This film works as an eye opener that may anger and amaze those who are not familiar with the phenomenon of Margaret Keane’s influential surreal Big Eyes art. At 87 her passion for art continues and she is still painting today. 



Donna Janke said...

Big Eyes looks like a movie I'd like to see. I'm not familiar with Margaret Keane, but I recognize the doe-eyed drawings. Tim Burton is an interesting film maker.

Ajay said...

Being a movie fan myself, I am definitely looking forward to this movie.
Happy New Year!

Anna Khan said...


Yesterday I was asking my friends about some movies suggestions for holidays. This came on right time. I will surly check this movie. It is nice to know that Margaret Keane had her own style and is still painting.
Movie seems interesting.