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When’s the last time you remembering seeing a straight Tim Burton movie, one without magic or headless horsemen, without superheroes or macabre animation or spaceships or a general Seuss-on-acid vibe? Twenty years ago, probably: Ed Wood was written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, a duo that went on to pen Man on the Moon, The People vs. Larry Flynt, and now Burton’s new one, Big Eyes.
This thing’s definitely going further than the black-and-white, skewed realism of Ed Wood, though. From the meaty first trailer, it looks like Big Eyes is a dead-ahead 1960s artist biopic. That’s interesting enough on its own, coming from a brilliant director with a long stretch of meh behind him. But Big Eyes also kinda looks like the next Oscar vehicle for Christoph Waltz, a two-time winner, and Amy Adams, a five-time nominee.
And the story it’s based on! Oh, man. Adams plays Margaret Keane, a midcentury painter of distinctively eerie wide-eyed children. As a single mother in her twenties, Margaret married Walter Keane, who cooked up a marketing scheme that would lead to Margaret’s art becoming a huge commercial sensation. Then Walter took credit for the work, came up with elaborate artsy explanations for it, and became a celebrity artist while his wife watched from the side. Waltz’s greasy, sociopathic charm is going to be in full force again, and Adams is in position to deliver another massive performance.1
Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Reynolds were originally intended to star. What a different movie that would’ve been.
Back to Burton, though. It makes sense that the MoMA-approved man who made Edward Scissorhands and Mars Attacks! and Beetlejuice and Corpse Bride would be attracted to a dark narrative centering on vaguely phantasmagoric pop art, right? Right! “Burton also owns an extensive collection of her work,” Robert L. Brown of San Francisco’s Keane Eyes Gallery recently told The Hollywood Reporter. Among Burton’s Keane collection? A portrait of his former partner, Lisa Marie, and his current one, Helena Bonham Carter.