Front Row at the Movies
“Big Eyes” --
At You, Kid!
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
My mother had a reproduction of a Keane painting on a wall of our house back in the ‘50s. It was kinda eerie, a little girl with eyes as big as saucers.
Reminded me of a scary folktale my grandfather used to tell about dogs with big eyes and bigger eyes and biggest eyes. The story (and the painting) gave me nightmares.
But my mother admired her good taste in art.
Everybody knew this guy Walter Keane was talented. After all, his paintings sold. Reproductions of his paintings sold. Postcards of his paintings sold. The style was unique.
Trouble was, Walter Keane didn’t paint them. His wife Margaret did.
Given a true story about a fraudulent artist known for his saucer-eyed children, who would you choose to direct a movie version of the story? Sounds like a perfect assignment for Tim Burton.
After all, he’s the guy who gave us “Ed Wood,” a movie about a so-bad-he’s-good moviemaker. And “Sweeny Todd,” a movie about a barber who chopped people up for stew. And “Alice in Wonderland,” a surreal tale about … well, you get the idea. Tim Burton is the man for the job.
To tell this retro story about a man who takes credit for his wife’s (bad) painting, Burton has Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious Basterds”) and five-time Academy Award nominee Amy Adams (“American Hustle”) to play bickering Walter and Margaret.
The fact that he appeared on television talk shows taking credit for her art broke up the marriage. They even wound up in court. It’s all here in the movie.
“Big Eyes” can be seen at the Tropic Cinema.
A psychologist once told me that big eyes in a painting were an indication of paranoia. But like the old saying, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean someone isn’t out to get you.
In Margaret Keane’s case, her no-good hubby was.