Big  Eyes
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Big Eyes

If you live through the 50s and 60s inevitably seem paintings, or at least reproductions, paintings with a truly unique and distinctive style. The usually featured children exceptionally doe like eyes on the faces of waiflike children. Within this body of work they were many other subjects but for most was the sheer pathos still by the portraits of children to remain most iconic. The most natural of questions to arise when considering such a popular and artistically influential style is the identity of the painter. For most of those two decades the work was attributed to Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz). It is not at all unusual for controversy to surround works of art, particularly with the more innovative artists. After all, artist, especially those known for creating their own school of painting, are passionate people who take hold of life building little obligation to the restraints of society. While the story behind these intriguing, wide-eyed works of art are not as salacious as the biography of many artists but it is extremely captivating in full of its own intrigue. Although Walter Keane publicly took credit for this artwork was eventually revealed that he was an imposter and that the true genius behind the work was his wife Margaret (Amy Adams). The revelation not only upset the art world and perplexed the fans but it would ultimately destroy our marriage and ignite a heated court battle.

As the story opens Margaret, from Nashville Tennessee, is trying very best to make a life for herself and her young daughter, Jane (Delaney Raye). The best she could think of to eke out a meager living is to sell her paintings wide-eyed subjects invoking a feeling of innocence. Margaret commonly sold her paintings at various art fairs but one particular day she happened to me of August, Walter Keane. He is exceptionally charming and soon a relationship develops. Rather short order there in Hawaii getting married. Superficially at least the union seemed happy enough, particularly when compared to her first marriage. After her union, Margaret took to signing her paintings simply as Keane. Sensibly Walter served as Margaret business partner to publicly represent her interest in the sale paintings. Along with his wife’s work, Walter was also trying to sell his own paintings. It quickly became quite evident that Margaret’s paintings were far more popular with buyers and artistically better received. Taking advantage of the ambiguous signature he began to take full credit for the paintings. As Margaret stayed at home continuing to paint she was sufficiently isolated and what her husband was doing that she had no idea she was a victim of fraud.

This film is a change of pace for director Tim Burton. It may be best known for his darkly twisted stories and surrealistic imagery there is one thing that is frequently overlooked about Mr. Burton’s body of work; those films are usually character driven, even if that character is a skeleton or a man with scissors for hands. With ‘Big Eyes’, Mr. Burton sidelines much of his trademark nightmarish elements and concentrates fully on the human drama. A major part of crafting a successful story concerning relationships is to carefully lay the groundwork for the basic character traits of each of the principal characters. Margaret has always been shown is a somewhat timid woman whose life was devoted to her child. Her paintings were an expression of love for the artistry and a means that enables her to translate her deep feelings for her child into a means of sustenance. In direct contrast, right from the start of the audience is given the decidedly disconcerting view of Walter. In one instance when he took Margaret to a restaurant he tried to leave boast that he doesn’t have to pay because he has already given the owner samples of his artwork. A natural negotiator, between his charming personality and devious mind deals usually go in his favor. Even when complementing Margaret, he boasts of studying in the Parisian art school. He does confess that he would love to work be able to paint with the emotional impact of Margaret’s work rather than his usual forte street scenes. It would later be revealed that Walter spent all of a week in the city of lights.

There’s something that must be kept in mind regarding anyone ‘born to be a con man’, is likely not to be able to separate his dubious business practices of his personal life. Ideal example of this is Walter Keane spent his days trying to make deals to sell his wife’s paintings. Even when he is only given a space near the bathroom of the club, he remained undaunted and pulling as much money from his wife’s artistic ability as possible. In Margaret paintings begin to catch on the money starts rolling in. He entices his wife by showing her the cash as an incentive to keep painting. Understandably, at least from Walker’s point of view, you neglected to mention which ‘Keane’ was being credited as the artist. When Margaret overhears a husband trying to impress some young ladies with his popular paintings to come to the realization that goes far beyond his potential philandering; he stole her reputation. In August, Dick Nolan (Danny Huston) was instrumental in publicizing the paintings. The paintings are now going for thousands of dollars and are getting global attention.

Unfortunately, this was a period of time when women were just beginning to see parity with men. Many held the opinion that true art would naturally come from a man and that women were relegated to less important expressions. As the painting became increasingly popular the house of cards will be constructed from his lies begins to become undone. The paintings have been caught up in a wave of a popular culture reproduced on everything from upscale prints to postcards. The situation ultimately degrades to a point where there is no hope to salvage the relationship in Margaret finally finds self-confidence necessary to move forward. Court case regarding the true identity of the painter is bitter and the divorce only becomes a cut the battle and artistic reputation. Walter actually tries to represent himself in court Nolan quickly points out in print that is only experience with courtroom procedures is watching Perry Mason. The seriousness of his courtroom struggle is undermined by Walter self-aggrandizement. After being allowed a pro se representation, makes a mockery of the proceedings while questioning his main witness, Walter Keane, ever the showman the dots back and forth from the witness stand in a bizarre self-examination. Although the judge quickly put an end to such antics it does place the indelible trademark of Tim Burton on the film. Even in a story with such serious themes as this one Mr. Burton asked introduce at least one bizarre twist. The movie does excel over the type of biopic that one might find on the Lifetime Channel. While the core of the story is a talented young woman being taken advantage of by her husband, ultimately it depicts her triumphing over moral injustice, criminal fraud, financial malfeasance. The film is deeply emotional and constructive research expertise that inexorably pulled in to the story. Pale such as this demonstrates how what many might think of as a pop culture fad contains an intense story line just below the surface.

Posted 04/14/2015

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