A no-fail winning combination in film would be great actors+great director+good story. You think ? Not necessarily. Hollywood dustbins are filled with disappointing films made according to this very combination. Still, Tim Burton bringing together Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in a true tale involving a kitsch painter and a charming con artist, with the backdrop of fifties and sixties San Francisco, the lure is irresistible. And the rewards many.
Amy Adams (Margaret) is not quite the typical housewife. We first meet her when, unhappy with her husband, she takes her daughter and leaves for California, this in itself a daring move for the time. Also, she’s an artist, sort of. She paints charming waifs with huge eyes, windows to their souls, she says. Never mind that they must share a single soul as they all have exactly the same mournful expression. Margaret is shy, has no idea of how to sell her art nor where the next meal will be coming from. Until she’s swept off her feet by the dazzling, charming, hundred-words a minute Walter Keane who has soon caught the potential of the waifs to help rake in big money. The catch is, women don’t count for much at the time, or are told that and believe it, so Walter establishes himself as the artist while Margaret toils away in the secrecy of their home. The masses being eons away from anything resembling good taste and smitten, instead, with gooey and treacly and anything that tugs at their heartstrings, money does indeed come rolling in. For ten long years, Margaret plays her part while finding the lie more and more difficult to sustain. Then she snaps and first leaves Walter, then drags him through court proceedings to reestablish her own artistic cred.
Critics have not been kind to “Big Eyes.” But though it does indeed lack the weird and original elements that pervade Tim Burton films, this biopic is tremendously entertaining from start to finish. Amy Adams is excellent as the much put-upon and obedient wife. As the loathsome con man who constantly reinvents his life from one lie to the next, Waltz lights up the screen as he has ever since he first appeared in Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” though he occasionally verges on caricature (as too frequent with good actors not held on a tight leash, remember Robin Williams). Tension never lets up, even through the lighter moments. Add to the mix good cinematography and a pitch-perfect musical score and there you have it. A film not to be missed and a most promising start to an avid filmgoer’s year.