Although obviously banal in a subjective sense, Big Eyes is still a long-awaited creative sigh of relief for Burton. Gone are the familiar faces and oppressive whimsy of yesteryears’ needless retreads, of which are replaced with an alluring focus on artist Margaret Keane (Amy Adams). Held under the thumb of sweet-talking imposter husband Walter (Christoph Waltz), Big Eyes tells of Margaret’s forced complacency living as the actual talent behind her beau’s titular trademark paintings.
Good news for resilient Burton apologists: Big Eyes actually delivers in the realm of narrative and presentational singularity. Keane’s story remains one worth telling and – even throughout its more sensationally biased moments – everyone is worth sympathizing with in some capacity as the line between artist and celebrity is drawn. Can artists be both creative and lucrative? Yes and no, and given the bizarre uniqueness of Margaret’s quandary, the latter remains an unfortunate but necessary impetus, more specifically one procured by exploited talent and an overbearing spouse.
In light of Walter’s rousing bouts of assholery, the man’s prowess as a businessman is easily applauded amid obvious exploitation of the intermittently assertive Margaret. You can’t sell art without falsifying its significance, however this know-all expertise is easily overshadowed by Waltz’s agreeably engaging batshit tendencies. If charisma was a sixth sense, this man’s would overpower the other five.
Above all, Big Eyes is still based on true events. Whether an inherent interest in the arts, Burton’s name or both compel you, how much you’ll like it remains contingent upon the quality of the story presented. The Keane family is thankfully a worthy focal point, pairing well with the script’s ample personality and well-researched backlog of biographical details.
It’s assuredly not without its strengths, however Big Eyes is merely a compelling biopic benchmarked by the talents of its cast. Burton’s toned-down aesthetic adds noticeably to the proceedings as we follow the Keanes on their bizarre rise to artistic superstardom in the mid to late-1960s. Lacing a straightforward narrative with ham-fisted if effective commentary on the state and influenced perception of the medium, Big Eyes is suitably entertaining where it counts.