For my final review of 2014 I am reviewing Tim Burton’s latest film and probably what will potentially become the most under rated film of the year! I have been very interested in this film for quite some time, ever since Nostalgia Critic reviewed the previous Tim Burton film, Alice in Wonderland. In the review he mentioned his next film was going to be Big Eyes and it had a very interesting premise I was keen on, especially considering it was like nothing that he had previously made and potentially could have been a radical turn.
I am not a person that loves or hates Tim Burton, I actually think his is very hit or miss, but when he is a hit he is one of the best directors around. Films like Batman, Edward Scissor Hands, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Big Fish are good examples of this, however his flops whilst potentially bad are never wholly horrible, see examples of films like Mars Attacks which I actually kind of enjoy on a lot of levels( and no I’m not copying Film Brain this is genuinely my opinion). In my opinion he has only had three disastrous films, namely Alice in Wonderland, Planet of the Apes and his Charlie and the Chocolate Factory re-makes, all of which were almost un-bearable to sit through, particularly Alice! (Yes I know this film has a fan base but I really can’t bring myself to lower my level of hatred for this film In order to not offend someone). So with this film’s change in style I also had to take in the fact that this film was not receiving a large amount of promotion. Of all the four films that have come out on Boxing Day, this film has received very few adverts. Just before I went to see the film, I had literally seen two advertisements for it, one being an advert I randomly saw on TV and the other on the back of The Big Issue. This film is seriously being under-promoted. Not helping matters is the fact that there are very few screenings of this film. In fact I couldn’t find a single screening at any Odeon Cinema. I only managed to see one because luckily another cinema chain in Peterborough, which is where I was spending the Christmas holidays happened to be showing it. This is really surprising to me especially with a name like Tim Burton being attached to the film, which also made me wonder, was this film being hidden for a reason, or is it another example of a more populous film getting the better advertising.
The plot itself follows the true life story of Margaret Keane, an aspiring artist who after marrying a man named Walter, had her art shown in Galleries, but under her new husbands name and the trials and tribulations she went through, having had her work stolen. Now, much like my previously reviewed ‘Pride’ this film can only take so many liberties in writing its plot, because of its true life events and I will be considerate in the film’s writing in that sense, however, this film’s plots biggest weakness is its first half, which was paced really badly. We are not initially given time to let things sink in with these characters, and I was feeling during the first half that it was moving too fast, however where this film resurrects itself is in its second half where it is much more improved. Its second half dives into several amazing themes, such as ‘what it means to be an artist’, ‘the society for women in the fifties onwards’ and even in the sense of ‘mental abuse’ which I think is something that has been under-used in cinema now, it seems much more leaning towards physical abuse. This is a film where as far as abuse goes, barely a punch was thrown. Seriously, my recollection of the film based on my first viewing was, that whilst there were threats of violence, there was no physicality actually involved and I think that actually helps the film tell its story better because it lets the abuse sink in better. You really feel for this woman in the second half of the film. She has everything taken from her, these aren’t just pictures on a canvas, they are her life’s work and her soul and this man who is conning her doesn’t understand this, and he doesn’t understand the impact!
The film tries to go into other themes with other characters, but I don’t think they work as well, especially the critic character, which feels like a really mean dig from Burton towards his critics and it doesn’t serve much purpose except to set up a later scene. It’s not too bad per se, it just feels very unnecessary.
The last time that Burton did a film based on a true life story was ‘Ed Wood’ and that should be the obvious one to compare this film to, especially considering the writing team behind that film is the same writing team for this film, however this comparison would not really hold up as Ed Wood was a lot more hyper stylised than this film and definitely felt more like a Tim Burton production. This film doesn’t feel very Burton, except at certain moments and that’s not a bad thing. I like the fact that Burton is spreading his variety with this film, especially seeing as how ‘samey’ some of his previous films have been, see films like Dark Shadows and Batman Returns for example. However, Burton does give us some of his usual tropes, like his fondness for the strange, almost macabre in certain scenes and his gravity towards villains, particularly considering a large portion of this film focuses more on the conman than the artist and I really get a sense that Burton’s fascination with this film was his fascination with the art itself and that really shines through in his direction. So whilst this film may be different to his normal work, it definitely has some of his stamps and I think he has outdone himself just by doing something that may not be recognisable, but is enjoyably different.
Overall, whilst the first half of this film may have not been as entertaining as I would have liked, the second half of this film saves its plot. I definitely enjoyed this film’s plot, it was very, very engaging and I am looking forward to a re-watch when it comes out, to see if I can spot anything I may have missed the first time, particularly in some of the more interesting sequences of the film such as the court room scene at the end, which I dare not spoil!
When it comes to the cast, Tim Burton hired some amazing actors, especially for the two main roles, however whilst the supporting role may get decent actors, I don’t think they are given enough time for us to build upon them, although that being said having done that it may have taken away from the major story that we are meant to be focusing on. Amy Adams does a brilliant Margaret Keane, having come after her previously Oscar nominated film American Hustle. She really plays a woman trodden down by societal norms and an abusive relationship very brilliantly, because it doesn’t define her, she is not a wilting flower, she can stand up for herself but she doesn’t feel completely confident enough to stand up for herself and thus it gives her husband more power, which is definitely to the credit Amy Adams acting.
One of the stand out cast members on this film is Christoph Waltz, playing Margaret’s husband Walter Keane and as a result the man who took credit for Margaret’s Big Eyes pictures and he is a brilliant actor especially for this sort of role. It’s great to see him still on form considering the last film I saw him in was the brilliant Django Unchained. Burton knows how to direct this man to be the slimiest despicable human being possible, which is very necessary considering we are focusing on him for a large portion of the film. Waltz already has Oscars to his name but I think he may potentially be getting another one from this, though I am doubtful considering the competition he will be up against looks like it will be Michael Keaton and Benedict Cumberbatch. It doesn’t detract, however from the fact that he is really selling himself as an actor I can completely get behind. I am definitely checking out a lot more films on his name alone.
The rest of the cast while creating their roles they don’t get a lot of time to show it. I like Krysten Ritter as DeeAne, but she is basically a glorified cameo and Jason Schwartzman plays a gallery owner who feels very much like he is out of one of Burtons previous films like Edward Scissor hands or Beetlejuice, but again he is very useless especially considering I expected he was going to turn up later in the film for reasons that will be obvious to anyone who sees this film, but obviously I don’t want to mention. As I don’t want to spoil these plots. If you are going to have role as small as art critic John Canaday, then don’t hire a great actor like Terence Stamp for a role that really under-does his talent. He brings a lot to this role and is very good but he’s so pointless, not at pointless as Jason Schwartzman’s Ruben, but still not really that necessary. Having said that though, I am glad that Terence Stamp was at least on good form, and probably may have affected a lot of people’s views about not only the art, but also life in general. I definitely saw a lot of myself as an amateur critic in him. There are other cast members I could easily talk about, but I don’t feel their roles were significant enough to really go too far in to it, but make no mistake they will grate. There’s no real downer in the cast. I would also like to take the time to say all the actresses who play Margaret Keane’s daughter all did an excellent job, particularly considering how important this role is.
The only other major praise I would like to give to this film is its cinematography, which obviously considering this is a Tim Burton movie is excellent. Burton may be giving us a more realistic world than previous films he has done, but he really brings his style to it and it does this film a major credit and makes it very viewable. I reckon I am going to spot a lot of things I didn’t notice the first time on repeat viewings. For example there is a subtle reference to Andy Warhol, which I didn’t notice initially, but my mum pointed it out to me in our post viewing discussion. I am hoping that I am going to find more moments like that. And while I’m at it I will also say the music is great Long time Burton music man Danny Elfman returns on good form for the score and I enjoy the song Big eyes by Lana Del Ray and it really kills me to say that cause I am definitely not a fan and my cousin Joe particularly was praising the music in our post movie discussion and insisted it get a mention in this review.
Can I find any negatives towards this film, yes, I can definitely find some negatives. As I mentioned the first half is paced pretty badly, in the sense that it feels too quick and we can’t attach ourselves to the characters as well but as I mentioned previously, the second half makes up for it. I also felt there were a couple of characters that could have been taken out and it wouldn’t have made a difference, particularly Reuben. However, much like my other review that has come out today ‘Patema Inverted’ it doesn’t feel like these negatives really mess up my entire enjoyment for the film, but they do linger with me a lot more than Patema Inverted. That’s not to say I dislike the film, far from it, it just means that I notice the problems a lot more and I don’t need these pointed out to me as much.
I went to this film with three other people, my mum and my two cousins who I was spending the Christmas period with. We all have different age ranges and different taste in films, but we all came out really enjoying this film, which I think suggests that this film is going to have a large universal appeal. I think a lot of people who are going to be Nay Sayers on this film, like I suspected my cousin Amy (who wanted to see Annie or Dumb and Dumber To and yes that really is the title of the film I haven’t made a spelling error) was going to be, will come out feeling very surprised, admittedly she believed this film was going to be great for art lovers but not for a general audience, however she went back on this opinion by the end of the film and believed it was a good film. That’s the best way to summarise this film. It’s a good film and I feel it’s really being under-sold by its marketing and its lack of screening, especially considering, from what I have heard about the other films that have come out on Boxing Day this year, this is probably going to be the best one. It will not succeed at the box office, that’s a certainty and I am doubtful that most of you can go and see a screening of this as I suspect it will be taken out of syndication very quickly, however it will probably mean it will go on DVD sale relatively quickly. Try and see it in a cinema if you can, yes this film has flaws, but it is a really great watch and if you don’t feel like doing that, please get this film on DVD. Rent it if you don’t feel fully confident from my review. I would like to see this film get some recognition and some success as Tim Burton has done an excellent film here and I think he should be rewarded for trying something so radical for his style, yet very pleasing.
Well, that’s my last review for 2014 and I am looking forward to doing more in 2015. If you would like to leave a comment on this review or any of my previous reviews, please do in the comments section. We welcome any opinion no matter what and I will try to reply to as many as I can, you don’t need an account and you don’t need to be from a certain area to write it. You just need to have an opinion and you just need to be able to type it down.
Now, as I promised, I was going to explain in this review how you are going to be able to post your own reviews on this site. It’s very simple. From January 1st you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Attach your review in a word document to the email along with your name and what film you are reviewing we cannot accept anonymous reviews in the context of the email though we will leave your name off the review if you request that. It can be anything you like, it doesn’t have to be a current cinema film, and it doesn’t have to be out that year. It can honestly, be anything you like even a film I have previously reviewed. Send your review, your discussion or even a top ten list if you like. We will accept anything and we will try to not refuse anything.
I am looking forward to reading through some of your film thoughts and they will be posted on our web site alongside any review that I am bringing out on the day and I will make sure to promote your work so people will see it in my reviews.
With 2014 coming to a close we must look forward to 2015, but I am not going to be doing a review in the first week of January and the scheduling of my reviews are going to change slightly. Instead of releasing them every fortnight, we are going to be releasing them every week, and they are going to be coming out on a Friday instead of a Wednesday. This is mainly to provide a better schedule of films and it will also allow me to get a larger variety of films. I chose Friday because that is the general release day.
I will be releasing my first review of 2015 on January 16. However on January 9 I will be bringing out my Top Ten Best films of 2014 list and my Top Ten Worst films of 2014 list. I look forward to seeing some of your best/worst films of the year as well.
Thank you for joining me on this brilliant first year for the Axia Film Society. It was an absolute pleasure to do and I am glad to see people have got enjoyment out of this. I hope to see all of you back again in 2015 as it is a pleasure to do this for anyone who wants to see this.
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