Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Big Eyes [2014]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB ()  ChicagoTribune (2 Stars) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (1 Star w. Expl.)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (S. O'Malley) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

Big Eyes [2014] (directed by Tim Burton, screenplay by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaczewski) is an "art film" (in more ways than one ;-) that I really expected to like far, far more than I did:

The film's about a quintessentially "middle American" couple (from 1950s largely SUBURBAN California to boot -- from "the edge of the city to the edge of the desert" was the range of their day-to-day experience) that embarrassed the Art [TM] world (again, in more than a few ways ;-).  And then the film's about the dutiful 1950s-era wife yet (DESPITE that role's otherwise CRUSHING LIMITATIONS in that era) the couple's TRUE artist (if in a kitsch sort of way ... her art featured one MOURNFUL BIG-EYED ORPHAN AFTER ANOTHER ;-) Margaret Keane (played with wonderful Oscar nomination-worthy _unsuredness_ by Amy Adams, you just want to give the woman a hug... ;-) finally standing-up to her appallingly artistically untalented (but one heck/Hell of a (self)-promoting) scoundrel of a husband Walter (played with magnificent / again bordering on kitsch delight by Christoph Waltz).  This would "American Gothic" (if it was painted by Andy Warhol ;-) who actually apparently delighted in Keane's work gleefully noting the obvious: "It can't be that bad IF SO MANY PEOPLE LIKE IT." ;-)

So why the heck did I not like the film so much?  Its utterly unnecessary pot-shot against the Catholic Church:

To explain (MILD SPOILER ALERT -- though this is already revealed in the film's trailer): Though having presented himself to Margaret as an artist himself (painting "street scenes of Paris" "from memory..."), at a critical point in the film, TO MAKE A SALE -- Walter's there, she's not -- he takes credit for one of Margaret's "orphan pictures."  He explains to her afterwards: "You signed it Keane.  I'm a Keane, you're a Keane, what's the difference?  We sold the picture."

There is a difference of course.  And Margaret immediately feels that something is stolen from her.  BUT then Walter adds: "Besides, nobody buys 'women art' ..."  Again, she's not really convinced, replying: "What about Georgia O'Keefe?" (and she's right).  HOWEVER, even though she gives the right answer, SHE STILL HAS BEEN FORMED (FROM CHILDHOOD) TO "LISTEN TO HER HUSBAND"  And so she does ... BUT there's STILL the INNER TURMOIL OF THE LIE.

So what to do?  SHE GOES TO CONFESSION about it.  And this is my problem with the film.  After explaining the situation to the Priest, that her husband is taking credit for her paintings and that she's had to reprimand her own daughter for failing to go along with the lie (something that she tells the priest she's not comfortable with) THE PRIEST RESPONDS TO HER: "The husband is the head of the household, I suggest that you go along with his judgement."

I find the CATHOLIC priest's response there VERY, VERY DOUBTFUL.  SURE, JUST LIKE IN MAINLINE PROTESTANTISM OF THE TIME (to say nothing of the "Bible Believing Baptists, etc" where there wouldn't have been a question at all), THE CATHOLIC CHURCH OF THE TIME WOULD HAVE BEEN CERTAINLY "Patriarchical."


In the 1950s, the Catholic Church in the United States was, hands-down, a Church with BLUE COLLAR ROOTS.  Most Catholic priests at the time would have come from the same blue collar families as the parishioners AND WOULD NOT HAVE GIVEN A DAMN ABOUT PROTECTING "FAMILY REPUTATION" AND SO FORTH.  The priest would have heard FRAUD in Margaret's Confession (and for the motive of Margaret / Walter trying to live "in a more uppity manner" than the rest of "the people of God" ...) AND THUS WOULD HAVE, 9/10, told Margaret to END THE FRAUD.  He would not have cared about her sensitivities as a "snobby artiste" ... He would have cared that the two were trying to "live higher on the hog" than BOTH she and her husband had a right to.

So the film's an otherwise lovely and fascinating story about Art, Class, Kitsch, changing roles of husband and wife.  But it adds to the story a stupid / lazy pot-shot at the Catholic Church.  (Folks, there would be PLENTY OF THINGS TO CRITICIZE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH and even THE CATHOLIC CHURCH OF THAT TIME, BUT THIS WOULD NOT BE ONE OF THEM ...)

So ... 1 star (and it's a shame, because I otherwise LOVED this movie ;-)

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