Sunday, January 18, 2015

"Big Eyes," Directed by Tim Burton

Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz) was supposedly the creator of paintings of big-eyed, waif-like children popular in the 1960s. As shown in "Big Eyes," his wife Margaret (Amy Adams) actually did the work while Walter, a flamboyant, sociopathic huckster, took the credit since no one would like "lady art." As a single mother who met Walter in 1958, the vulnerable Margaret was charmed by Walter, a real estate agent who pretended to be an artist in the bohemian North Beach section of San Francisco. With his salesmanship, Walter popularized Margaret's paintings, claiming them as his, and had them printed on postcards and posters while she churned them out in an attic. Critics such as John Canaday of the New York Times wrote scathing reviews of Margaret's work, and rightfully so; it was indeed sentimental kitsch. Regardless, it meant something to the artist, who grew increasingly demoralized by the art fraud the Keanes were perpetrating on the public and by her husband's abusive behavior. Margaret escaped with her daughter to Hawaii, where she emerged victorious in the 1986 trial Keane vs. Keane. While some might question how Margaret put up with her situation for years, "Big Eyes" renders her situation believable in the context of the 1950s repression of women–and her liberation believable in the context of the feminist movement in succeeding decades.

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