Big Eyes Blu-ray Review
Though I’m proud to say my parents didn’t own any, growing up in the 1970s several of my friend’s parents had prints of little children with saucer-sized eyes hanging in their home. I found the fairly creepy (as I do the greeting cards they have out now with cute animals with giant eyes that seem to be begging “please” but send me the message “I’m in pain, kill me”). Not surprising, director Tim Burton collects the big eyed paintings and, after he learned the story behind them, decided to make a movie about them.
When we first meet Margaret (Adams) she is doing what was thought of as the unthinkable in the late 1950s – making a stand and leaving her husband. With her young daughter, Jane (Delaney Ray) in tow, she heads to San Francisco, packing only their suitcases and her paintings. Margaret is an artist. One day, while hoping to raise a little extra money, she sets up on a sidewalk with other artists, doing sketches of passing children for a few bucks. There she meets Walter Keane (Waltz), who is doing a great business selling his Paris streetscapes. The two begin dating and, when Margaret’s husband tries to take Jane, marry. Margaret continues to paint but now signs her huge-eyed waif paintings with her new last name: KEANE. Oops!
An off-beat story told by an off-beat filmmaker, BIG EYES is an entertaining look back at not only how the kitsch art world came about but at how those involved succeeded. Adams is perfectly cast as a woman who knows she has talent but realizes, due to the times, that it is better for her to let her husband take the credit. 50 years ago women were often thought of as 2nd class citizens. Stay at home moms were the norm, tasked only with keeping the house clean and having dinner on the table when hubby came home. But Adams gives Margaret a spark…one that says even though she’ll go along with the scheme she won’t be happy about it. Waltz is equally entertaining as the “artist,” Walter Keane. With grand gestures and a smooth vocabulary, it’s easy to see how Walter made everyone around him believe it was his work, even though they had never seen him paint one. In his two Oscar winning roles, Colonel Lanza in INGLORIOUS BASTERDS and Dr. King Schultz in DJANGO UNCHAINED Waltz has shown a way with words and charm and he is strongly in that mode here.
The screenplay, by Burton’s ED WOOD writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, is funny when it needs to be and pays great attention to the period between portrayed. It’s very safe to say that this is the least “Tim Burton” film ever made by Tim Burton. Though there are a few touches here, the story is mostly told straight-forward and shows the director doesn’t need quirkiness (or Johnny Depp) to make a good movie. Sadly, BIG EYES somehow got lost in the Oscar shuffle. Both leads are very deserving on nods (Adams and Waltz were nominated for Golden Globes, with Adams winning) as were a few technical categories and Danny Elfman’s playful musical score.
Video: Presented mostly in a 1:78.1 aspect ratio the transfer is sharp. Early scenes, like Margaret’s Arizona home, are sunny and bright, while the film becomes more muted as the story progresses.
Audio: The soundtrack is available in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and is also sharp and clear. The dialogue and music are well mixed and actually seem to complement each other.
The Making of “Big Eyes” (21:33): A nice featurette that looks at the story behind both the film and the paintings that inspired it.
Q & A Highlights (33:55): A compilation of two different question and answer sessions held after screenings, one which features Margaret Keane herself. Her best answer is that Walter was even MORE outrageous then Waltz portrayed him. Also included in the questioning: stars Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Krysten Ritter and Jason Schwartzman; director Tim Burton and writers Scott Alexander and Larr Karaszewski.