My second favorite period piece of the year behind Grand Budapest. This is a subject matter that I am completely unfamiliar with: Margaret Keene (Amy Adams), the artist who painted a lot of eerie paintings of children with enlarged eyes, all the while her husband (Christoph Waltz) stole credit with his showmanship. I’ve had plenty of issues with Tim Burton in the past, but it’s only because I know he can do so much more when he’s inspired; most recently, you can tell that he felt very passionately about Frankenweenie and Sweeney Todd, but at the same time, you can tell how much he phoned it in when he got Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows. As a result, I end up feeling blasé towards the majority of his projects.
Burton is actually doing something different here; while he is still focusing on a subject matter that wouldn’t be out of place on a Hot Topic t-shirt in these unsettling paintings, he’s doing so within a period piece and nailing it. He does this so well, I would even go so far to say that this is as well handled as the Coen brothers would do a period piece, although that is just on a production design level, I would still give the Coens the edge in the writing department. The only confusing thing about this is the Golden Globes nominations. Not that this doesn’t deserve to be there, mind you, but this is nominated as a musical/comedy; I don’t know if the Hollywood Foreign Press forgot to watch this, but this is neither.
Apart from all of the little details to this, what elevates this is performances from the two leads. I have loved Waltz in everything I’ve seen, and here is no different. He has a way of emoting sinister, creepy, charming and subtle malice all at the same time, and it is very rare to see an actor that can portray such a range within the same line of dialogue. While it is his portrayal of a conman and a fraudulent salesman that stands out the most, he also has somebody great to play off of in Amy Adams. For the first time in forever, I saw a character and not just Adams playing herself, so I tip my hat to her. You are really able to see the predicament that she is in, so it is easy to make a connection with this insecure woman. This is very well made, and I felt that I learned something about a subject matter I previously knew nothing about.
Big Eyes (2014) ****
– Critic for Hire
Want to see where this fell in my list of best films of the 2014? See for yourself here.