'Big Eyes': What the Critics Are Saying
Tim Burton directs Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in the biopic about the Keane couple and their kitschy paintings
Big Eyes casts Amy Adams as Margaret Keane, the quiet artist behind the kitschy 1960s paintings that her charismatic husband, portrayed by Christoph Waltz, claimed to have created. Directed by Tim Burton, the film also features Danny Huston, Jon Polito, Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman and Terence Stamp.
Read what top critics are saying about Big Eyes:
The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy writes, "This nimble, bemused, culturally curious look at the married instigators of the kitschy “big eyes” paintings of the early 1960s exudes an enjoyably eccentric appeal while also painting a troubling picture of male dominance and female submissiveness a half-century ago. ... Big Eyes is not as profoundly strange or resonantly personal as Ed Wood, nor is there anything as magnificent here as Martin Landau's turn as Bela Lugosi. But it's good to see Burton playing to his strengths against after a stretch of uneven work."
Additionally, "Adams' first-rate performance illuminates both the reticent and creatively compulsive sides of Keane's personality, although no one may ever know where it all came from and why she basically painted the same picture over and over again for years. Waltz's exuberant side is given free rein as the actor makes Walter both winning and loathsome. This is certainly his best English-language performance in a non-Tarantino film. Polito and Stamp are sharp in their real-life roles, while Danny Huston has some arguably superfluous voiceover narration as the late San Francisco Examiner columnist Dick Nolan, who befriended Walter. James Saito is vigorous and humorously domineering as the judge who ultimately sets things right."
The New York Times' A. O. Scott calls it "a horror movie tucked inside a domestic drama wrapped up in a biopic," though it "never quite achieves the full measure of psychological intensity promised by the spooky interior lighting, the low camera angles and Danny Elfman’s hysterical score. The element of Margaret’s personality that allowed her to remain under Walter’s spell for so long remains opaque." Adams’ performance "is sensitive and subtle, but the film can’t quite figure out what to do with her character’s passivity. Trying to do Margaret justice, Burton can’t prevent himself (and Waltz) from upstaging her."
Los Angeles Times' Betsy Sharkey explains, "The movie does come with all of the filmmaker's polish" but "is never fully realized. ... mostly Big Eyes unfolds like so many film biographies, a bit too literal and linear — then this happens, then this." Adams "is affecting in playing subservient, eyes uncertain, lips quivering. But somehow it still feels too safe, without the same emotional risks that characterize her work. ... In contrast, Waltz takes Walter to extremes, quite irritating in his demanding entitlement, the smile plastered on. The sly sensibility the actor has brought to other florid characters — a Nazi colonel in Inglourious Basterds, a brazen bounty hunter in Django Unchained — is shelved."
The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday says it "doesn’t approach the sublime or subversive heights of Ed Wood” as it "has a much more conventionally uplifting feel, which probably suits its protagonist more than the usual Burton combination of worship and winking playfulness. ... As with Keane’s beguiling, come-hither ragamuffins, it’s impossible not to like Big Eyes, which presents its heroine as a genuine, if self-effacing proto-feminist pioneer. ... Big Eyes is technically and aesthetically attractive. Clearly in love with the groovy color palettes and streamlined contours of the era, Burton delivers Big Eyes with few of his signature imaginative touches."
The Boston Globe's Ty Burr asserts, "Big Eyes may not be Burton’s absolute worst movie" but "it’s pretty close to the bottom. It’s also the film that reveals his weaknesses as a director and, by their absence, his strengths. Gaudy, shallow, shrill, smug, the movie proves beyond a whisker of doubt that Burton has little interest in human beings unless they can be reduced to cartoons." He "highlights every obvious point while steering clear of the subtleties. As you’d expect, Big Eyes is heavily stylized, and the sets, costumes, and props all vibrate with a high-’60s plastic sheen. The colors pop. The characters pop louder. Christoph Waltz, as Walter Keane, pops loudest of all. It’s a truly irritating performance, both intentionally and un."