Big Eyes, Tim Burton’s Triumphant Return
By Heather Nichols, Tawfik Zone Contributor
When it comes to the works of Tim Burton it seems like there is a group that absolutely adores everything he does and there are people that just don’t get what’s so great about him. There’s also a group of people who watch The Nightmare Before Christmas year round and wear copious amounts of eye make-up and Jack Skellington shirts, but we won’t talk about them… I think what we can take away is that his films have a large fan base, particularly among people in my age group.
I would say that early on and up until around the release of Corpse Bride I’d consider Burton to be one of the top directors of our time. After that, his films started to become lackluster and I would joke that he and Johnny Depp needed to see other people because almost every film starred Depp or had characters that bore an odd resemblance to Depp (see Frankenweinie). I’m glad to see that Burton has decided to part ways with Mr. Depp for his latest film, as their collaborative bromance was inhibiting his creativity.
Big Eyes is a film that feels more close to Burton’s roots, planting us in a world that could easily be juxtaposed to that of Edward Scissorhands (minus Depp). Full of color and camera work that is distinctly Burton I would say this is not only his greatest film we’ve seen in a while, but on par with the films that cemented him as a stylized director (and also award worthy.)
The biggest complaint I had heard from other critics before viewing the film myself was that the story was melodramatic and just another bio-pic. While I don’t think it’s the most compelling story on its own, the actors and Burton’s love for the characters is what really drives the film and makes it stand apart from the pack. Being an avid fan and collector of Margaret Keane’s paintings, Burton’s adoration shines through the film.
Amy Adams has dropped the over the top dresses (which Adam “Tawfik Zone” hated) in a role that is much more suited to her strengths, which ironically is playing more fragile, naive characters. As for Christoph Waltz, he’s brilliant as per usual but the catch this time is this film actually made me not like him because his character is that scummy. Ladies, you’ll want to slug him far before the credits roll.
So what is Big Eyes about? Well if you’ve followed Burton’s work you’d notice he pays homage to several artistic styles, including that of Margaret Keane, the woman behind the large eyed children’s paintings of the 50’s and 60’s. This is also a period piece meaning things were different for women back then, and as stated in the opening narration, women didn’t leave their husbands back then, it just wasn’t done. In an early scene a man interviewing Margaret asks if her husband is okay with her working.
In just a few lines it is established that this is a time for men and that this character is at a vulnerable point in her life having just walked out on her husband with their daughter. Enter Waltz’s character Walter Keane, a fantastic con with all the appeal of a shiny 66’ Jaguar with a hood full of rusting and corroded parts. On the outside he has all the charisma and charm, but Burton subtly hints that something’s not quite right under the hood…
In an apparent act of love and sympathy he quickly marries Margaret and through a series of events convinces her to let him take credit with creating the big eyed paintings. At first she goes along with this, being a woman of that time and again. But this slowly eats away at her and after a startling revelation she breaks her silence.
From any other director this could have been a sappy melodramatic film that would play at 4pm on the Lifetime or Oprah networks. But this is Burton whose use of style moves the story and presents it in a way that is vastly entertaining. He made me really dislike Christoph Waltz, which is difficult to do, utilizing the range and depth of his acting ability. I’m sure the academy won’t like this but I’d personally polish up a third Oscar for him. I will not spoil those twists for you as you owe it to yourself to see this film which I am proud to give and 8 out of 10.
Some side notes; I found out today that Burton has been separated from his longtime partner Helena Bonham Carter and they are in the midst of a settlement. I can’t help but wonder if that had some impact on this film similarly to how Vertigo was influenced by personal happenings in the life of Alfred Hitchcock. Only time will be able to tell…
And on a completely unrelated note… so there’s a rumor that Idris Elba might be the next James Bond. I know this is causing some controversy so I’d love to put my two cents down while I have an audience. I’m not a diehard Bond fan but I do require two things of my Bond men, that they reside in the UK and that I can believe hordes of women would sleep with them. Mr. Elba fits the bill so I hope they do cast him.