BIG EYES is the first live-action film Tim Burton has made without his bauble-spangled muse, Johnny Depp, since 2003, and it's a refreshing departure from the usual Burton world of guyliner and reaction shots. Big Eyes tells the (sorta) true story of Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), a plucky single mom who left her boring suburban '50s life for San Francisco, hoping to make it in the city as an artist. She quickly got married to a rich schemer, Walter (played by Christoph Waltz), whom she reluctantly let take credit for her kitschy paintings of saucer-eyed children—only to see them become a novelty success thanks to Walter's schemes.
As much fun is it is to see Burton warm up his frozen palette and leave goth camp for the sci-fi '50s (his perfect sandbox, strangely), he seems to have broken the knob off his volume control. Waltz is a brilliant actor, but no amount of acting can turn an Austrian into a native-born American, as Burton's attempting. Waltz's readings often cross the line between "sociopath" and "jack-o'-lantern."
The story should also be about so much more than the Keanes' marriage drama: Walter was a bullshitter, but he also brilliantly exploited an art world that was based on bullshit, and in the process, gave his wife's work a life it never could've had on its own. It's disappointing to see that boiled down into Margaret's hero's journey. Big Eyes has big problems, but the bright colors and Waltz's batshit performance make it compelling in the same way as a Keane painting: a little chintzy, and the proportions are all fucked up, but you feel drawn to it just the same.