Forget about the big eyes and wonder instead at the even bigger size of Christoph Waltz’s overplayed performance in this peculiar, disappointing true-life drama from Tim Burton, better known for the bigger-budget likes of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’.
Here Burton ditches his special-effects toolkit and Johnny Depp to tell the 1950s and ’60s-set story of California painter Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), whose domineering, creepily charismatic second husband (Waltz) tricked a hungry art market and sniffy art world into believing her kitschy paintings were actually by him. If you know the basics of the tale, there’s little more to gain from this shallow, gaudy retelling.
The gaudiness is apt, of course: Keane’s paintings were nightmare-cute monstrosities (‘an infinity of kitsch,’ says Terence Stamp’s art critic). And at first the heightened colours and taste-free design of ‘Big Eyes’ feels right, even fun. But these broad brushstrokes come at the expense of real investigation into the sad marriage and individuals at the heart of the story. Burton lets Waltz run wild, sucking the air out of every scene with his hysterics, and the always-endearing Adams is left looking like a rabbit in the headlights.