Review: Big Eyes

Big Eyes marks master storyteller Tim Burton’s return to non-animated feature length films in 2 years, since the disappointing Dark Shadows (2012). After a tongue-in-cheek poke at the recent Golden Globes, this biopic has been on audiences’ watch lists.

Big Eyes

The film is based on the life and trials of American artist Margaret Keane, as she struggles between her role as a woman in the overbearingly patriarchal 50s & 60s. The artist, whose works are renowned for featuring depictions of subjects with enormous haunting eyes (thus the title), struggles in a journey plagued with immense conflicts – does she protect her husband’s secret and lose the relationship with her daughter or should she take pride in her bewitching (albeit rather macabre) paintings, knowing full well that claiming credit for them could mean disaster for her family?

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Amy Adams exhibits an award-winning calibre in her portrayal of Keane. The character progresses from being almost unbearably meek, to appropriately headstrong at times, especially when faced with discrimination from the patriarchal and male-dominated art community of the 1960s, which is the perfect depiction of women in the past being overshadowed by male figures despite their talents.

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Christoph Waltz’s Walter Keane is overbearingly charming while constantly maintaining a layer of sleaziness, giving the audience an instinctive sense of mistrust from the get-go. Throughout the film, we watch as Margaret’s conscience is wracked with the pressure to be a good wife to her husband, even while she watches him get showered with praise for her craftsmanship.


Visually, the film contrasts the pastel colours of the locales, reminiscent of Burton’s previous work The Stepford Wives (2004), against the harsh colours of the Keane household. The sets are seamless, with everything from period-accurate cars to buildings allowing the audience to immerse itself effortlessly in 1950’s San Francisco. The movie’s shots are expertly handled, almost comparable to Wes Anderson’s recent cinematic masterpiece, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014).

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Despite getting all the aforementioned details right, Big Eyes still lacks a crucial factor in ensuring if the audience is able to relate to the film. Margaret Keane’s story has been illustratively put across, but in the end we don’t feel much passion for the characters, nor do we feel endeared to them. In fact, watching the (at times, insufferably) demure Margaret Keane stumble through her marital troubles while making no attempts to break out of her husband’s emotional chokehold begin to grate on the audience’s nerves after a while.


Long-time Burton fans may be disappointed at the lack of trademark eerie and off-kilter style of storytelling in this tale. Perhaps his recent marital troubles may have had a hand in this. The storytelling in Big Eyes has leaned more towards sentimentality rather than campy creepiness. Either way, Big Eyes is undeniably beautiful but seems to be lacking another important organ – its heart.

Rating: 3.5/5


Release Date: January 29

Runtime: 106 minutes

Censorship Rating: PG13

Genre: Drama

Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Krysten Ritter