From the Academy Award® winning team that brought you Ed Wood, Big Eyes focuses on the artistic coupling of Margaret (Amy Adams) and Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz). Walter Keane became a worldwide celebrity and talk show fixture in the 1950s after he pioneered the mass production of prints of big-eyed kids, and used his marketing savvy to sell them cheaply in hardware stores and gas stations across the country. Unfortunately, he claimed to be the artist. That role was played by Margaret, his shy wife. She generated the paintings from their basement and Walter’s contribution was adding his signature to the bottom. The ruse broke up their marriage and led to a divorce and a dramatic courtroom battle to prove authorship of the paintings.
Christoph Waltz is the perfect person to play the conniving compulsive liar Walter Keane. His quietly manic energy, coupled with his devastating charm encapsulates a man who duped the art world for years. Likewise, Amy Adams is the perfect actress to play Margaret Keane. Her innate innocence allows us to believe that something this horrible could happen to someone this nice in the 1950s.
For those of you that don't know the story, Margaret Keane she was a talented artist who specialized in paintings featuring subjects with enlarged eyes. However, in the sexist era of the '50s she couldn't find a market for her work. Her future husband Walter Keane, noticed her talent and tried to pass it off as his own. When the big eye paintings became a cultural phenomenon, Walter spent time schmoozing with the who's who of the art world, while his wife Margaret was secretly locked away in her studio painting as many Big Eyes as possible. It's a true story. One that played out years ago. First, in the art world and then in the courts.
Director Tim Burton provides a decidedly understated flavor here. After egregiously over-the-top flamboyancies such as 'Dark Shadows' and 'Alice in Wonderland,' it's great to see him work here. The colorful world of art, coupled with the peculiar look of Keane's big eye paintings affords Burton the surrealist look he usually favors. A movie where, with one glance, you'll be able to recognize it as Burton's visual eye, but not be completely put off by its garishness.
Margaret, unfortunately, is at the end of her rope with her first husband. Living in an abusive relationship, she leaves him and takes her daughter with. She meets Walter at a park where he's selling paintings and she's doing caricatures.
Walter is an immensely affable personality. A little awkward, slightly weird, but extremely persuasive. See, this is right in Waltz's wheelhouse. He absolutely nails this role. Every snide laugh or faked guffaw is so him. It's a joy watching him work, even though the character he's working with is pond scum.
What begins as an idyllic, fun courtship between two likeminded artists soon morphs into a relationship horror film. Entirely beaten down from her first marriage, Margaret is simply happy to find someone who shares her interests. She's happy to be spending time with a person that enjoys art. It just seems too good to be true.
As the movie slowly turns, revealing Walter's true character it's fascinating to watch how Waltz transforms. A true chameleon, he starts out as this friendly hero type, and ends up a frothing lunatic unable to separate himself from the compounding lies he's heaped upon everyone.
With Burton's directing we're transported to a vibrantly colored '50s, which never seems too over the top, but has just enough Burton-esque flare. The rest of the movie hinges on every strained laugh, every genuine moment, every scary confrontation that Adams and Waltz have together. They run through the gamut of emotion, and it's immensely satisfying to watch them work. What we have here is a melding of visually pleasing direction and two actors at the top of their game doing what they do best.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Big Eyes' comes to Blu-ray on a 50GB disc. It's a single-disc set, which comes with a code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy. A slipcover is also provided.
The sumptuous visuals provided in 'Big Eyes' are displayed rather wonderfully in Anchor Bay's 1080p presentation. Colors, textures, and detail are all sharp. A delightfully detailed image sustains throughout the movie's running time.
I only ever watched 'Big Eyes' on a studio-produced awards screener sent out at the tail end of last year. It was a DVD, and even by DVD standards the picture was murky and fuzzy. Watching it again on Blu-ray was like watching a completely new film. Burton's bright and bold color palette were given new life as the lush cinematography was presented with clarity and richness. Primary colors are strong, never wavering. Black areas are equally impressive.
Detail is top-notch. The line work and brushstrokes of Margaret's paintings is phenomenal on close-ups. The texture of her canvases is lifelike and tangible. Facial detail is likewise a winner. Close up shots feature smile lines, freckles, tiny hairs, etc. All of life's tiniest features are on display here. There was one or two instances of brief banding that were noticeable, but soon shuffled away. With that minor caveat, 'Big Eyes' has a fantastic video transfer.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is just as impressive – though with another minor quibble. First, there's a whole lot of good to praise here. The movie's lively soundtrack gets pumped through all channels with a clean and clear precision. There is also a heavy helping of ambiance which allows even a talk-heavy film such as this to feel multi-dimensional.
The dialogue, for the most part, is extremely clean and easy to hear. There's one conversation where the voices of Margaret and her friend seem lost in the audio fray, as they talk to one another during a city-set conversation. You may have to strain your ears to hear this back-and-forth dialogue. It's only that one part in the whole movie though. The rest of the dialogue is never lost, and never comes across as too low to hear.
Surround channels are alive with activity. Whether the characters are strolling through a park or schmoozing at a party, the rear channels feature people milling about, glasses clinking, and all other sorts of environmental sounds. The sub-woofer gets a few moments where it can thunder out some bass during the more intense scenes. It's a strong audio presentation even with that one conversation that seems to get needlessly lost.
It's already a drama-filled true-to-life story, so it was primed for a movie anyway. However, on the backs of Adams, Waltz, and Burton, the movie becomes something quite impressive. As the acting and directing mesh, 'Big Eyes' becomes a very satisfying biopic, which features one of the more intense emotional roller coasters. With strong audio and video, plus a couple intriguing extras, this release comes recommended.