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Movie Review

Big Eyes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language.

Reviewed by: Nicole Granath

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Biography Drama
1 hr. 45 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
December 25, 2014 (wide—1,307 theaters)
January 2, 2015 (wide—1,408 theaters)
DVD: April 14, 2015
Featuring: Amy AdamsMargaret Keane
Christoph WaltzWalter Keane
Krysten RitterDeeAnn
Jason SchwartzmanRuben
Terence Stamp … John Canaday
Danny Huston … Dick Nolan
more »
Director: Tim Burton
Producer: Silverwood Films
Electric City Entertainment
Tim Burton Productions
The Weinstein Company
Distributor: The Weinstein Company

“She created it. He sold it. And everyone bought it.”

A newly single mom, Margaret (Amy Adams) with a daughter to support, meets a charming, kind, and generous man named Walter (Christoph Waltz), who seems to be the prince of her dreams. Both looking for a new start, and both burgeoning artists, they quickly marry, going on a romantic honeymoon together in beautiful Hawaii.

However, upon returning to the mainland, Margaret discovers that her new husband’s charm is beginning to wear off. Although their shared passion for painting initially brought them together, it soon becomes clear that Walter Keane’s interest in art has more to do with business than pleasure. At first, Walter appears to be helping Margaret get her artwork noticed, while also selling some paintings of his own. But when Margaret’s “Big Eye” paintings become more popular with the public, Walter begins taking credit for his wife’s work. Walter claims that no one wants to buy “lady art,” and that without his wit and charm to close the deal, Margaret’s paintings would never sell.

Feeling coerced and without recourse, Margaret goes along with the lie, to her own emotional detriment. The lie also damages her relationship with her daughter, as she locks herself in her art studio and paints for hours on end, day after day. Sworn to secrecy by her husband, not even Margaret’s daughter is allowed to know the truth about who the real artist is. As the family acquires wealth and fame through Margaret’s increasingly popular paintings, Walter’s demands on Margaret only increase. Can the new car, bigger house, and celebrity friends quiet the fierce and ever-growing desperation Margaret feels inside?

Positive Elements

Margaret and her daughter share a close relationship throughout the film, although they become somewhat estranged for a time, due to Margaret’s secrecy regarding her paintings. When Margaret lies to her daughter, she feels convicted and goes to a priest to confess her sin. Margaret is not really seeking fame or riches with her artwork. She just wants to do what she loves, which is to paint. Also, Margaret doesn’t allow herself or her daughter to stay in an abusive situation, once it becomes clear that her relationship with Walter has escalated to that point.

The film does a good job of portraying a woman who starts off as naive and fearful, and how she eventually overcomes her feelings of helplessness and shame to do what’s right. There is no nudity in the film and little, if any, sexual content, and there are very few obscenities.

Negative Elements

One character is seen “flipping off” another character, and some curse words, including the f-word, are exchanged. In one scene, two characters get into a physical fight in a bar/club. In the beginning of the film, Margaret and her daughter are shown packing up their belongings and leaving Margaret’s first husband. An explanation is never really given, except that the husband was “smothering,” which doesn’t seem like a very good reason, in and of itself, for ending a marriage. Margaret jumps into her next marriage rather suddenly, which is probably not a very prudent idea. However, it is portrayed as a red flag in the movie.

Margaret allows her husband to lie to the public about being the artist behind her “Big Eye” paintings, and she goes along with his lie, as well. Although the truth is eventually brought to light, for a long time Margaret is too weak and fearful to be honest with the public, or her own daughter. The lie is portrayed as being wrong, though, and the fact that the truth will eventually come out is a strong theme in this movie.

The movie portrays Margaret’s redemption as coming through her conversion to Jehovah’s Witnesses, when two members of the Watchtower Society visit her home and share their beliefs with her. While many of the Scriptures shared in the movie are from our actual Bible, it is important to realize that Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult. As Paul says in the New Testament,

“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a Gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!”

We are not to accept other versions of the Gospel, which do not align with God’s Holy Word. Any other version of the Gospel that contradicts the Bible is actually a lie from Satan, and not the true Gospel at all.

Tips on Witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses (in our EffectiveEvangelism section

Why is Creation the best place to start in witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses?

How do Jehovah’s Witnesses’ teachings about Christ compare with Scriptures?

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Heavy—“My G*d” (4), “hell” (6), “G*d-d*mn,” “For Chr*st’s sakes,” “For G*d’s sakes,” “Jesus,” “Christ,” “Good G*d,” and “Oh God,” “d*mn,” “f*** you,” s-words (4), SOB / Sex/Nudity: Moderate—passionate kiss, swim suits, cleavage, bare breasts in a painting, a sexual remark

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—This is a fairly enjoyable movie that very much reflects the life style in America in the 1950s and 1960s, when women were expected to stay at home and serve their husbands. Amy Adams portrays the submissive Margaret Keane, and Christoph Waltz does a magnificent job portraying the flamboyant entrepreneur husband, Walter Keane, who usurps his wife’s paintings and passes them off as his own, virtually defrauding the art world and art galleries.

How this all comes about is clearly presented by a decent screenplay. Walter is the central figure in the story, as he charmingly and convincingly pressures his wife into letting him present her work to the world as his original paintings.

Waltz nails the role, so this is actually his tour de force movie. There is a dimension of sadness to the story, as it appears that Walter is truly, terribly in love with the notion of being a Paris-trained artist, and Margaret understands that his claiming her art as his own achievement is a clever and successful marketing strategy, although it deprives her of her self-esteem and dignity.

They become rich, but they don’t live happily every after.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
Halyna Barannik, age 68 (USA)
Positive—This was a nice movie. Not a great cinematic movie, just a nice film with a good story, based on truth. I only put “offensive,” because it had one f-word and very few cuss words that I can’t remember what. Take the f-word out, and I give it a “better than average” moral rating, because the true story clearly tells that this woman was under a kind of mental bondage to her husband and his push to make both of them money. We know that the love of money is the root of all evil. The movie shows clearly that she felt, all the time, bad for trying to live a lie to the point of lying to her own daughter for years. The movie showed that this was wrong.

The fact that, toward the end of the movie, the Jehovah’s Witnesses came to help her in seeing that it was wrong to lie was no reason to put down these people, in a cult, trying to help. The movie showed that Jehovah’s Witnesses are nice people. They are, for the most part, nice people. It is true that we Christians know that the nice people in the Jehovah’s Witnesses are in a cult that is not of God, and, yes, they need Jesus. Yet, still, they are moral people, like the people in the cult of the Mormon Church; they are in a cult, yet still a moral people that try to do good.

Only Jesus will get us to Heaven, not our morals, on a human level. It’s almost a Hollywood ritual to make moral people, trying to do good, look like stupid imbeciles. At least, in this movie, they made the Jehovah’s Witnesses nice folk trying to help.

The husband was a real nut case taking credit for her paintings for years (evil heart). It was nice to see justice done at the end of the movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Robert Garcia, age 67 (USA)
Movie Critics

…uplifting feel, which probably suits its protagonist more than the usual Burton combination of worship and winking playfulness. …it’s the female journey of self-discovery and empowerment that “Big Eyes” is interested in.
—Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post

…BIG EYES is a very interesting movie from Tim Burton. It’s also one of the least strange, most entertaining movies he’s done. …but there’s also a feminist, politically correct tone. …
—Ted Baehr, Movieguide

…his most surprisingly human film in ages. Perhaps coincidentally, it's the least recognizably Burtonesque film he's ever attempted and one of the most modestly budgeted. … [B+]
—Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly

…directed in Mr. Burton’s coy, heavily pictorial manner… never quite achieves the full measure of psychological intensity promised by the spooky interior lighting, the low camera angles and Danny Elfman’s hysterical score. The element of Margaret’s personality that allowed her to remain under Walter’s spell for so long remains opaque. …
—A.O. Scott, The New York Times

…Big Eyes is more of a Big Disappointment from Tim Burton… The film isn’t funny enough to be a comedy or serious enough to be a drama. And so it dwells in that amorphously ill-defined zone, Dramedyland… [2/4]
—Bruce DeMara, Toronto Star Newspapers

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