Popcorn Preview: Big Eyes

Big Eyes (2014)
Cast includes: Amy Adams (American Hustle), Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained), Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad), Jason Schwartzman (Moonrise Kingdom), Terence Stamp (Yes Man)
Director: Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Corpse Bride)
Writers: Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski (Man on the Moon, Ed Wood)
Genre: Drama | Biography (106 minutes)

"Margaret walked out on her husband before it was the fashionable thing to do." She grabs only what's important... her clothes, her daughter Jane and her paintings of Jane with big eyes. In San Francisco, her friend DeeAnn helps her get settled. Sadly, the galleries are showing nothing but modern paintings... it's the 50s after all. But a local furniture factory is hiring... "So your husband approves of your working?" they ask. It's not the job she really wants, but on weekends she sets up a stand selling portraits with big eyes to tourists. She asks $2 but she'll settle for $1... even at that price, she's not selling very much. In the next booth, Walter Keane is selling Paris street scenes for $35. "I can't believe you lived in Paris," says Margaret. "I've never even been on an airplane." Margaret is impressed with Walter's romantic nature. "What's with the crazy eyes?" Walter asks. "I believe the eyes are the window of the soul," says Margaret.

As it turns out, Walter is "just a Sunday painter." Mostly, he's a real estate salesman... and he's pretty good at it. Walter and Margaret haven't been dating long when Margaret finds out her ex-husband wants to sue to take Jane away. "He says I'm an unfit mother, living on my own." Walter doesn't miss a beat... "Marry me. I'll take care of you girls." After the quick wedding in paradise (Hawaii), Margaret's friend DeeAnn is surprisingly unenthusiastic. She knows Walter's reputation. On the other hand, Margaret's fortune cookie predicts, "You are on the threshold of unfathomable success." Still, Walter can't convince local galleries to show their artwork. One night while Walter and Margaret are at the Hungry Eye, it occurs to Walter that the walls are awfully plain. He makes a deal to rent wall space to show their paintings. No one's interested in Paris street scenes... but "Look at that child!" Patrons seem to love the children with the big eyes... "You're a hell of a painter," they say to Walter... and he doesn't correct them.

It turns out that the fortune cookie is right... even though it's Walter who takes credit for the paintings. Margaret's kitschy paintings defy all the odds. The Keanes sell so many paintings, they soon open their own gallery. Bit by bit, Walter finds even more ways to make money selling big-eyed children. Before long, they're practically printing money... but all is not perfect in paradise. Director Tim Burton, who is known for crazy surrealistic movies, is the perfect director to bring this surreal tale to the screen. If you don't remember the phenomenon of the big-eye paintings, you could almost think this is just another crazy Tim Burton movie. The true story is indeed bizarre. The movie has appeal both for its artistic merit and for the exploration of a cultural phenomenon. Amy Adams as Margaret is excellent. Christoph Waltz's over-the-top portrayal of Walter -- who, by many accounts was truly over-the-top -- can be a bit distracting. At any rate, it's an interesting exploration of how the "little hobo kids" became a household must-have. It wasn't until years later that the truth came out. Art critics were at a loss right from the beginning... "It's like the hula hoop... they just won't go away."

3 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
The story of Margaret Keane, the painter of the big-eyed children

Popcorn Profile
Rated: PG-13
Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Style: Neutral
Distribution: Mainstream Wide Release
Mood: Upbeat
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: High-End Production
Nutshell: Margaret Keane
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Entertaining, Informative & Thought Provoking

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