COURTESY LEAH GALLO/THE WEINSTEIN COMPANYChristoph Waltz and Amy Adams play Walter and Margaret Keane in “Big Eyes.”

COURTESY LEAH GALLO/THE WEINSTEIN COMPANYChristoph Waltz and Amy Adams play Walter and Margaret Keane in “Big Eyes.”

‘Big Eyes’ opens window into Keane’s soul

The current movie season has been riddled with true stories and biographies, most serious and reverent in anticipation of upcoming award glory. Tim Burton's new biopic of painter Margaret Keane separates itself from the pack in a prickly, delightful way.

“Big Eyes” tells the strange story of Margaret (Amy Adams), who paints waifs with oversized orbs.

In the 1960s, newly separated from her husband and with a daughter to support, she moves to a quirky, lively, pastel-coated San Francisco and starts selling her paintings at street craft fairs.

There she meets Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz). Exuberant and charming, he's a great salesman – just what the shy, introverted Margaret needs.

They marry and Margaret begins to sign her works with her new married name, Keane. During a potential sale, Walter tells a small, white lie and takes credit for one of the “big eyes” paintings.

The lie spins hideously out of control. The paintings become enormously successful and the secret must be kept at all costs. Margaret stays stuck in a secret studio, where she meekly, glumly churns out new paintings while Walter comes up with increasingly maniacal new schemes.

Of course, things come tumbling down and the movie climaxes in 1970 at an amazing trial. We learn that the real Keane is currently in her 80, still painting, and living in Napa.

Danny Huston plays Dick Nolan, the real-life San Francisco Examiner columnist who writes about the Keanes and who narrates the bizarre story.

Funny, weird and disturbing while still feeling truthful, “Big Eyes” is Burton's most grown-up work to date. Without abandoning the director’s personal vision, it presents a deliriously twisted view of domestic life in the 1960s and 1970s, and also deals with a difficult, complex adult relationship.

While Adams qualifies as one of Burton's usual willowy blondes (Winona Ryder in “Edward Scissorhands,” Patricia Arquette in “Ed Wood,” etc.), she beautifully conveys a passionate inner life, and a crippling lack of self-esteem and self-worth.

Waltz's character nicely fits with some of Burton's energetic creator characters (Ed Wood, Jack Skellington), except he's the ironic opposite: He's really a monster and he doesn't actually create anything.

Screenplay writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski – who also wrote Burton’s best film “Ed Wood” – have a true touch for unusual biography. Together, the trio captures a kind of “Amazing Stories” vibe, but rooted in human pain and beauty, with a view through the windows of the soul.

REVIEW

Big Eyes

Three and a half stars

Starring: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston, Krysten Ritter

Written by: Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski

Directed by: Tim Burton

Rated PG-13

Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Amy AdamsartsBig EyesMoviesTim Burton

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Board of Supervisor President Norman Yee. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Supes ban tobacco smoking in apartments but exempt cannabis

San Francisco banned smoking and vaping of tobacco in apartments Tuesday night,… Continue reading

Dr. Grant Colfax and Mayor London Breed said new restrictions could come this week due to rising COVID-19 cases.<ins> (Examiner screenshot)</ins>
Breed: ‘More restrictive action’ needed to slow spread of COVID-19

San Francisco officials said Tuesday tougher restrictions will soon be imposed to… Continue reading

Many landlords fought the proposal requiring them to register properties, calling it an invasion of privacy. 
Kevin N. Hume/
S.F. Examiner
Housing inventory wins unanimous approval from supervisors

Legislation will require landlords to register properties, report vacancies and rents

Harlan Kelly, head of the SFPUC and husband to City Administrator Naomi Kelly (right), faces federal charges for allegedly trading inside information on a city contract in return for a paid family vacation. (Courtesy photo)
Harlan Kelly, head of SFPUC, charged with fraud in widening Nuru scandal

Kelly accused of engaging in corrupt partnership with permit expediter

Jeff Tumlin, director of transportation for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, said the agency’s fiscal situation is “far worse” than the worse case scenarios projected back in April. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA prepares for massive potential layoffs as budget crisis continues to build

More than 1,200 full-time jobs on the line as agency struggles to close deficit

Most Read