Big Eyes (Blu-ray)

April 8, 2015 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

I’ve always been fascinated with real-life stories that later become feature-length films. Just to think that somewhere (even before I was born) there was an event going on that would be so memorable that they’d choose to make a film about it. Admittedly, the San Francisco art scene of the 1950’s isn’t exactly my forte, but I do remember seeing some of those paintings with the “big eyes” and being, well, a bit frightened! Ok, maybe that’s taking it a bit too far. Moving on to the film itself, I’d heard good things and was surprised that this didn’t garner any Academy Award nominations. Amy Adams seems to be Meryl Streep-like in that most everything she does ends up winning her something, but she was casually overlooked at this year’s Oscars. Add to that Christoph Waltz and his two Academy Awards and Tim Burton as the Director, well…you get the idea.

Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) is a mild-mannered artist living in San Francisco. She peddles her talents at the park for a dollar a pop, but soon catches the eye of Walter (Christoph Waltz). Their relationship progresses rapidly and before long, the two are married. Walter is a painter as well and has a bit more pizazz when it comes to selling and marketing his paintings. He convinces a local bar owner to showcase some of his and Margaret’s work when her paintings start to sell. Walter, being the bright-minded chap he is, figures out a way to capitalize on the success of her paintings – create prints of them and sell them at a fraction of the cost. “Would you rather sell a $500 painting, or a million cheaply reproduced posters?” And, to his credit, it works. The only trouble is that Walter has been taking credit for his wife’s work, something she’s not too happy about. As the years pass, Margaret becomes more of a slave than a wife. She paints 16 hours a day until she’s finally had it and moves to Hawaii where she becomes a Jehovah’s Witness. She dishes the dirt in a radio interview years later which results in a lawsuit between she and Walter. Who’d have thought paintings about little girls with big eyes would cause such a stir?

I read the review in Rolling Stone and they said it best “Big Eyes could have been a dutiful Lifetime movie about the exploitation of women. That it becomes something scrappier, deeper and memorably comic and touching  is due to the radiant Adams, who never patronizes Margaret, and to director Tim Burton, who gives the film the sheen of a fable laced with menace.” And that pretty much sums it up. Burton’s direction is impeccable as are the performances of Waltz and Adams. Truthfully Waltz does ham it up a bit, but when in  a Tim Burton movie I’d expect that’s the right thing to do. Adams is perfectly cast as the meek and mild-mannered artist. The film might not be one that resonates after the ending credits roll, but it’s fun to watch and offers several great performances.

Video: How’s it look?

When you mention Tim Burton, it’s natural to think dark and demented. Granted, that’s the case with the majority of his films, but Big Eyes is about as bright and cheery as they come. The 1.78:1 AVC HD image oozes with so much color and light that it’s hard to picture it as a Burton film.  Detail is amazing, there are several shots of the San Francisco area and colors tend to leap off the screen. Flesh tones are warm and natural and even the darker scenes (the paintings’ eyes, for example) have no issues with them. This is a departure for Burton, though some of his previous films, despite the darkness, have been extremely colorful. The Blu-ray looks amazing – as it should.

Audio: How’s it sound?

I really wasn’t expecting a lot out of this soundtrack, to be honest. As we might expect, Tim Burton has once again teamed with the amazing Danny Elfman who provides a cheery and robust score for the film. The vocals are rich and crisp, Christoph Waltz’s German accent is immediately noticeable, but lacks any distortion. The front stage is surprisingly active, though the surrounds are always present, offering a bit of ambiance to the film. All in all, it’s a very satisfying mix and shouldn’t disappoint.

Supplements: What are the extras?

I was a bit disappointed by the surprising lack of supplements, but it’s not an entirely featureless disc.

  • The Making of Big Eyes – Running a bit longer than your standard “Making of…” piece, this features all of the main cast and crew. Tim Burton, hair wilder than ever, gives some history on the film and his inspiration for it.
  • Q&A Highlights – This 30 minute segment is just that, and these seem to be more and more prevalent on Blu-ray’s these days. The cast and crew of the film answer some questions from the audience and members of the press.

The Bottom Line

If anyone thinks that Tim Burton has lost his touch – he hasn’t. I really had no clue what to expect when watching the film, only that Amy Adams and Christolph Waltz delivered great performances. It’s nice to see Burton make a film in the vein of Edward Scissorhands or Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. The Blu-ray delivers top notch video and audio, though the lack of supplements might deter some from a blind purchase.

Disc Scores