After 2012's bomb Dark Shadows, Tim Burton is definitely looking for another hit these days. Could his latest movie Big Eyes, in theaters Dec. 25, do the trick?
It certainly has potential. Reviews are mixed, with many saying that the film is an improvement over Burton's more recent work, but it doesn't live up to one of his most celebrated films and other famous biopic, 1994's Ed Wood. Still, the stars of Big Eyes, Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, both scored Golden Globe nominations for their lead roles as Margaret and Walter Keane, respectively, so there's a chance this film could get some Oscar love in the future.
Watch the trailer for Big Eyes, and you will probably recognize the paintings in the short spot. Those girls with the melancholic, huge doe eyes are iconic and dominated the contemporary art scene in the 1950s and 1960s, but many people don't know about the artist behind them, Margaret Keane. In that way, Big Eyes is more than just a movie. It tells the true story of the Keanes and is ultimately a tale about ownership, the definition of art and women's rights.
You see, when Margaret first started painting these unique portraits, her husband Walter took credit as the artist. In fact, he even locked Margaret in a room in the back of their house to crank out paintings all day.
The couple ended their 10-year marriage in 1965, but Walter continued to insist he was the true artist behind the paintings, even after Margaret revealed the truth in a 1970 radio interview. She challenged her ex-husband to a public painting contest to prove who the real artist was, but he never showed.
This back-and-forth went on for years until in 1986, the two appeared in federal court to settle this once and for all. The trial lasted for three-and-a-half weeks during which Margaret claimed Walter threatened to kill her and her child from a previous marriage if she didn't go along with his scheme. Margaret even created one of her classic waif paintings right in front of the jury, labeled Exhibit 224. Walter, who said his shoulder was injured, declined to demonstrate his painting skills in court. Margaret ultimately triumphed, with the judge ruling that she would receive $4 million in damages.
Now of course with the upcoming release of Big Eyes and the recent book Citizen Keane: The Big Lies Behind the Big Eyes, there is renewed interest in Margaret's work. And that could mean more commercial success for the now 87-year-old's paintings. The screenwriters of Big Eyes, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, told The Los Angeles Times that they hope the film inspires the art community to "re-evaluate Keane's work."
If you're now dying to get your hands on a Keane of your own, you can find plenty of framed originals, prints and lithographs over on eBay, selling anywhere from $15 to $12,500. Those prices will probably become even more eye-opening once Big Eyes hits theaters.