A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Big Eyes is Tim Burton's delightful -- if slightly disturbing -- biopic of painter Margaret Keane (Amy Adams). Expect some shouting and threats and one scene in which a man gets very drunk and starts throwing lit matches at his wife and stepdaughter. Characters drink somewhat frequently, especially in the film's second half, but the match incident is the only scene of drunkenness. Language is spotty but includes one use of "f--k" and a few uses of "s--t." Sex isn't an issue, except that a couple shares a kiss after they decide to get married. There's a clear message about the dangers of lying, and Margaret overcomes adversity and goes on to live a long, happy life.
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What's the story?
In the 1960s, Margaret Ulbrich (Amy Adams) separates from her husband and starts a new life in San Francisco, raising her daughter. While trying to sell her paintings of waifs with big eyes, she meets the exuberant Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), and they marry. While Margaret is shy and introverted, Walter is a great salesman who sets about trying to market their paintings. During a potential sale, Walter lies and claims Margaret's work as his own. The lie spins hideously out of control, and as the paintings become more popular, the crazier Walter's schemes become and the more desperately he tries to keep the secret. Margaret winds up painting in solitude, unable to see friends or her daughter. Will she find the courage to reclaim her work ... and herself?
Is it any good?
Tim Burton teams with screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski for the first time since Ed Wood; the result is another amazing-but-true story that's delightful, prickly, and bizarre. BIG EYES avoids the seriousness of too many other biopics and stays true not only to the Keanes' story and situation, but also to Burton's singular filmmaking vision.
While Burton uses quirky visuals to twist and dismantle the traditional domestic standard, he also focuses on an honest-to-goodness grown-up relationship and its interactions and confrontations. Burton's other signature touches are here, including Adams as one of his usual willowy blondes, but her great performance gets to the root of the character's deep, crippling emotional insecurity. Waltz is likewise terrific, manic and monstrous, the opposite of one of Burton's usual creative characters. A happy footnoote: As the movie closes, we learn that the real-life Margaret Keane is still alive in her 80s -- and still painting.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Big Eyes' violence. Where does it manifest itself? Is it scary? Where does it come from, and how is it depicted? Does the relative lack of violence affect the impact of the few scenes that include it?
What is the sex life like of this married couple? What does the movie show and not show? What do these choices say about their relationship?
How frequently do characters drink? Do they appear to enjoy it? Why do you think they drink? Are there realistic consequences?
What does the movie have to say about lying? Is the lie exposed? Is the liar punished?
Is Margaret a role model?
- In theaters: December 25, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: April 14, 2015
- Cast: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston
- Director: Tim Burton
- Studio: Weinstein Co.
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements and brief strong language
- Awards/Honors: Golden Globe
- Last updated: January 8, 2021
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