Never had a “keen” interest in the eerie, grotesque, haunting paintings of Walter Keane; children reminiscent of a Stephen King novel, aliens; instead of being “windows to the soul” their eyes were vacant, soulless, dead. Also, astounded at their magnetic appeal, commoditization; like the invasion of the body snatchers, escaping their pervasiveness was hopeless, they championed the art market in the early 1960’s.
“Big Eyes” starring the incomparable actors Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz as Margaret and Walter Keane has an intriguing commencement but is stymied by debilitating, sophomoric writing. Once Margaret asserts herself, claims ownership of her own works, dumps the charlatan, the momentum shrivels and Waltz shrinks into a comically, disastrously absurd, acerbic, alcoholic megalomaniac; his final rants are an embarrassment to his erstwhile resume.
Director Tim Burton (a collector of Keane paintings) somehow looses his creative perspicacity in “Big Eyes”; recognizing the restrictions, restraints choking women in the 50’s and 60; Margaret, lacking temerity and unaware of Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Germaine Greer, still was revolutionary in leaving her husband, fleeing to San Francisco with her daughter, precipitously marrying fraudulent cad, Walter; his manipulation was Rasputin in intimidation and cruelty. Walter with tsunami, egotistical mood swings, earns his comeuppance, dispatched by New York Times art critic John Canady (minor but pungently powerful depiction by the inimitable Terrance Stamp); blasting the king of kitsch, was the best scene in “Big Eyes”.
Canady felt “art should elevate, not pander”; minimal elevation, and an abundance of pandering resulting in a flat “fizzless”, film.