‘Big Eyes’ Isn’t What You Would Expect From Tim Burton

The trailer for Tim Burton’s latest work, Big Eyes, has officially been released, and from the looks of it, this won’t be your typical Burton flick. The movie, starring Amy Adams, chronicles the true but little-known story of famous artist Margaret Keane and her deceptive husband, Walter (played by Christopher Waltz). While the biopic has dramatic and sometimes dark undertones, it’s not the kind of material you’ve probably come to expect from the director in recent years.

Keane first made as a name for herself as an artist in the late 1950s by creating kitschy portraits of children with huge, orb-like eyes. By the early 1960s, the paintings had become hugely popular, with reproductions of the works popping up in living rooms and on front of postcards everywhere. But Keane’s tale of success wasn’t an entirely happy one. With the demand for Keane’s images only rising, her husband, Walter, decided to take full credit for the work — without even bothering to tell his wife.

By the time Keane realized what had happened, it was too late, and she was forced to go along with the lie for years. “No one will ever know but you,” Adams (as Keanes) tells the dog of her secret at the beginning of the trailer. It wasn’t until after their seemingly inevitable divorce that she stepped forward, in 1970, to assert the paintings were actually her own works and kicking off what would prove to be an over decade-long legal battle. Not until 1986 did she earn a climactic victory, finally getting the rights to her own paintings after winning a paint-off — yes, a paint-off — against her husband in court.

While it’s certainly the kind of dramatic story that lends itself to film, the biopic does mark a departure from the types of movies Burton has been making recently. For one, his favorite star, Johnny Depp, is nowhere to be seen — although some smart-aleck fans are already betting the actor will make a cameo somehow. Plus, while the paintings themselves make for the kind of creepy and haunting visuals that Burton loves, the overall trailer is much more restrained stylistically than most of the director’s latest works.

Then again, Burton is familiar with bringing the plight of misunderstood artists to the big screen. In 1994, he helmed an acclaimed biopic about director Ed Woods. Big Eyes seems to be a return to that kind of quieter but still powerful project, even reuniting him with the Ed Woods screenwriters, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski.

Burton’s involvement in the project isn’t the only one gaining attention. Adams is already stirring up Oscar buzz for her starring role. The actress has been nominated five times and has yet to win, but this part is giving viewers high hopes that she’ll soon be getting another shot. Waltz also has a solid chance, given his history of taking home the acting prize in his past award-worthy films. Either way, Big Eyes seems like a safe bet to become an awards season contender.

The movie hits theaters on Christmas Day.

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