tek's rating: ½

Big Eyes (PG-13)
Great but Forgotten; IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; Tim Burton Wiki; TV Tropes; Wikipedia

Caution: potential spoilers.

So... this is about Margaret Keane, whose art became quite popular in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I suppose I must have been vaguely familiar with it before this movie came out in 2014 (and which I didn't see until 2017). And I probably sort of liked it, though I didn't really know anything about it or the history behind it. And now... it's nice to know about it.

The movie starts in 1958, when Margaret Ulbrich (Amy Adams) leaving her husband (whom we never see in the film), and taking her 9-year-old daughter, Jane, with her. They move to San Francisco, where Margaret reconnects with... I guess an old friend... DeeAnn (Krysten Ritter). Margaret also soon meets an artist named Walter Keane, who takes an interest in both her and her own work as a painter. They start dating, and before long they marry (which Margaret agrees to partly to prevent her ex-husband from taking Jane away from her). And Walter strikes up a deal with a jazz club owner named Enrico Banducci (Jon Polito), to display both his and Margaret's art in the club (having failed to get it into any galleries). Before long, Margaret's art becomes popular, and Walter takes credit for it. At first it seemed he was merely failing to correct a misunderstanding (because it was, at the time, unlikely for female artists to be taken seriously). But as his artistic fame increases, he becomes increasingly more invested in his lies, which he convinces Margaret to go along with.

I have to say, for the early part of the film, I had mixed feelings about Walter. Part of me felt bad that no one was interested in his own art, simply because his style was out of vogue at the time. (Though that particular sympathy would later be negated, for a reason i won't spoil.) And part of me felt bad that he was probably right that people in that era would have less interest in Margaret's work if they knew it was by a woman. And part of me felt he really did play a vital role in promoting her art (even while taking credit for it), and without his work, she might never have been "discovered." Also, art critics really didn't like the paintings, didn't consider them real "art," which I thought was grossly unfair and snobbish. On that count, I felt bad for both Margaret and Walter. But, over time, Walter becomes increasingly dickish and unsympathetic.

Eventually, Margaret leaves Walter, taking her now-teenaged daughter with her. And later still, she sues Walter for recognition of her work. And she wins. And... other than that, I'm not sure what to say. Except the film is, to some extent, narrated by a gossip columnist named Dick Nolan (Danny Huston), who had helped make Walter/Margaret's work popular. And... I dunno. There are some amusing bits in the movie, though of course it's mostly serious. And it's just... the kind of thing that's, you know, hard to watch someone being taken advantage of, but ultimately worth it to see her triumphant. Oh, also, there are a couple of songs by Lana Del Rey, an artist whose own style I felt was rather an appropriate fit with the theme of the movie. (There's also some music by Danny Elfman.) Anyway, I'm glad to have seen the movie.


based on a true story