Time to Remember
There are only a handful of directors out there today that have such a distinct vision that you can immediately tell that it is their film. Whether through design or editing or cinematography or even content, you can easily pick them out of the crowd for their specific sensibilities. Scorses, Speilberg, The Coen brothers, the Wachowskis - all directors that I grew up with that I keep returning to for their unique "flavors". I include Tim Burton in this group of cinematic auteurs.
His latest film Big Eyes is his most naturalistic story to date , void of the dark visuals and gothic look that dominate the majority of his oeuvre. It tells the true story of artist Margaret Keane (a luminescent Amy Adams) whose pictures of saucer eyed waifs became a pop culture phenomenon. Unfortunately, her Svengali husband Walter (Christoph Waltz) took credit for her paintings , essentially cutting her off from friends and locking her away in her studio to produce his populist product. She becomes a prisoner of his intricate lies and deceits, browbeaten and threatened if she were ever to reveal the truth until she flees and eventually speaks out on her own behalf.
Adams as usual does lovely work despite the sketch of a character she is given . There is a sadness behind her sparkly eyes the bespeaks of hidden traumas of her past ( she is a divorcee previous of meeting Keane in a time when divorcees are looked upon as damaged goods.) but there is nothing else that informs why she would continue to churn out at a high yield the paintings with no acknowledgement. I realize it was "The Times" before women had a say, but I would have appreciated a little more insight into why she put up with it for so long.
Waltz seems to be in another movie altogether. His characterization is over the top where Adams is subtle.. I have loved his work in Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained, but I am starting to get the feeling that without Tarrantino to explain the nuances of American humor, his Teutonic sensibilities overshadow the material. Every motive is telegraphed and predictable, his quasi American accent is vaguely European, and his charmless charmer swayed me not.
I did enjoy Jason Schwartzman as a rival Gallery owner and Terrance Stamp as the pithy art critic.
All in all, Big Eyes is an interesting obscure footnote in pop culture history. It shows a potential for Burton to do a more traditional style of storytelling, but I miss the hallmarks of his past films. His most recent fare had been mired down in his quirkiness, so maybe this departure style is an experiment to re-invigorate his vision. Big Eyes is a good-not-great film that hopefully leads him back to doing what he does best-dark-funny-gothic. Bright and sunny Burton just leaves me wanting.
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