Sunday, 4 January 2015


Your moment of validation as a coffee-table painter materialises when you are asked to sign your coffee-table book in Tim Burton's coffee-table movie, Big Eyes. Sad, that. At least Margaret Keane's coffee-table art displayed sentimental, personal value to her; Burton navigates the pedestrian screenplay with the hack attitude that it deserves, but that its subject does not, coffee-tables aside. Big Eyes will likely be regarded, decades from now, as a film not of its era but of a specific movement within its era - the Oscar-baiting biopic: soulless and sombre, regrettably flavourless but staunchly tasteful, a recipe followed by the coffee-table book by an artist capable of more and worthy of better. Even Burton's visual prowess seems stymied - it's lacking in pizazz, which becomes Keane's emotional entrapment quite finely, save a bizarre neo-Giallo-styled scene where Margaret and her daughter are threatened by her maniacal husband. The film stutters to life there, and in later sequences where Burton's careful embrace of this true tale's absurd qualities is let loose, but never entirely convincingly. One senses that he's keeping himself in constant check, ever wary of the wayward tendencies he possesses as an artist that have spoiled his chances of success with awards voters and casual viewers alike in the past. Big Eyes is effortlessly engaging in fits and spurts, for a variety of reasons, but never more, truthfully not once. And while one might comment that such a pedestrian approach to telling Margaret Keane's tale befits her legacy as a painter, can it really befit anyone's legacy as a person? In the case of actor Amy Adams, or cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, or production designer Rick Heinrichs, or director Tim Burton, as artists, it certainly does not.