Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Look at the Early Divisive Reactions to "Big Eyes"

Left to right: Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams
It has been awhile since we last heard about director Tim Burton's Big Eyes. After the great first trailer was released, the buzz has been silent in favor of more pressing films. Still, it seemed like was bound to be an Oscar contender in a lot of aspects. It teams up Burton with the writers of his best film: Ed Wood. It also looks to be one of his more realistic and interesting films that focuses more on drama than visual flourishes. Also, it has Amy Adams gunning for a potential Oscar nomination. The only question is if it could last. Based on early reports, it doesn't look all that likely of a lock.

The film made an ingenious premiered recently at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Following the story about two artists beloved by fans but hated by critics, it seems like a very personal film and one that should make Burton's involvement all the more hands on. Still, the news coming out of the showings aren't all that positive. Whatever attributes there are seem to be muddled with the fact that it isn't nearly as great as many art assuming. In fact, Tim Gray of Variety thinks that it stands a better chance at the Golden Globes than Oscars. From there, things get a little more complicated.

Here are a few choice quotes that summarize the varying aspects:
"Adams' first-rate performance illuminates both the reticent and creatively compulsive sides of Keane's personality, although no one may ever know where it all came from and why she basically painted the same picture over and over again for years. Waltz's exuberant side is given free reign as the actor makes Walter both winning and loathsome. This is certainly his best English-language performance in a non-Tarantino film. Ultimately, Big Eyes is not as profoundly strange or resonantly personal as Ed Wood, nor is there anything as magnificent here as Martin Landau's turn as Bela Lugosi. But it's good to see Burton playing to his strengths against after a stretch of uneven work.
- Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter)

With Big Eyes, he mostly puts the tics away, and as a result this is one of his most straightforward films. That’s not a criticism, however: The discipline of making a relatively standard biopic with a happy ending forces him to focus on storytelling in a way that he hasn’t with his other films this century
 - Tim Grierson (Screen International)

But Big Eyes is good, not great. What keeps it from excellence is its reluctance to explore the very questions it raises.

- Inkoo Kang (The Wrap)

"Even when events take an exceptionally silly turn in the third act, the film manages to earn both the huge laughs and emotional catharsis."
- Jack Giroux (Film School Rejects) 

This banal, awkwardly directed biopic of sorts was once thought to be an Oscar hopeful for Amy Adams, whose sublime talents are wasted by such malnourished material. The characters are paper-flat: Margaret lies helpless in the shadows of her monster of a husband as he apes the success that ought to be hers. He has done an evil thing, but the film seems indifferent to that evil. 
- Ryan Lattanzio (Thompson on Hollywood)

So, what we can gather from this collection of reviews is that the film isn't nearly as much of a lock as many once thought. While many praise the script and Amy Adams' performance, there's others who feel like the film isn't bold enough to take its own stance. This seems problematic in the long run. However, this is only a sampling. If one is to believe those behind The Weinstein Company, who screened it five times, the general response has been very positive towards the film. Also, others have even commented on the great supporting players that include Jason Schwartzman and Krysten Ritter. Of course, with this opening on Christmas, it does seem like the type of film that head Harvey Weinstein is going to be pushing. It should be interesting to see what angle he does.

However, this is a little disheartening because it doesn't lock in Adams for the award. Of course, Julianne Moore has also been heavily in contention for her work in Still Alice. The only difference is that that film's profile hasn't exactly inflated to a noticeable size. Still, it is early and anything can happen come December. For now, we'll have to see which side ends up winning. On a more interesting note, between this and Interstellar, it has been an excitingly divisive year for Oscar films. I just wonder how that will play into the actual race.

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