A drama about the awakening of the painter Margaret Keane, her phenomenal success in the 1950s, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband, who claimed credit for her works in the 1960s.
“Big Eyes” is based on a true story and features a strong performance by Amy Adams as Margaret Keane, the woman whose unique style of painting characters with large eyes became hugely popular under her husband Walter’s name. Walter (Christoph Waltz) seizes her paintings and ascribes her work to him. He is subtle at first, saying he is Keane and she is Keane and that she will share in the financial gain. But he is a shrewd businessman and popular with people, so he keeps Margaret hidden away in her painting room, churning out new works of art for him to claim.
The tension begins to mount as Walter puts more and more pressure on Margaret and continues to take the credit. He soon mass-produces posters of her artwork and only cares how well the art is selling. At one point a customer says, “Your husband is quite an artist. Do you paint too?”
Eventually Margaret finds her voice and speaks up, taking her daughter away and finally telling a radio station that the work has always been done by her. Eventually Mr. and Mrs. Keane wind up in court and it is up to a judge to decide who the real painter is. The judge comes up with an imaginative solution: each of them is provided with supplies and must paint a portrait. The judge knows that only one of them will be able to match the previous work. Margaret’s painting is labeled “Exhibit 224.” The ending is satisfying, and it is a shame that we cannot award the movie our Dove “Family-Approved” Seal. Unfortunately, strong language prevents us from doing so.