Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski
Starring: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Krysten Ritter and Jason Schwartzman
Is it art or is it trash?
Tim Burton’s latest poses this hyperbolic question about the paintings of Margaret Keane several times, but he isn’t (I’m sorry) too keen on exploring it. Instead, he renders the answer unimportant and focuses on a more generic conflict: Keane (Amy Adams) finding the courage to fight her husband Walter (Christoph Waltz) for the right to her artwork after years of letting him take credit for it so it would sell. Walter uses traditional 1960s gender roles against his wife so he can pretend her work is his, at the same time pretending like he’s doing her a favor by getting her paintings out to the public. That doesn’t sound more generic, but when the movie introduces questions that would make it more interesting and then ignores them, the narrative’s single-mindedness becomes annoying.
Burton also doesn’t allow Keane to grapple with anything that would make her character anything other than a saint. There’s a brief shot where she reads a brutal pan by a New York Times critic (Terence Stamp), and shame convincingly washes over Adams’ face for a split second before it cuts away to Walter’s theatrical rampage about the article. The inspiration for her lawsuit against Walter is her joining the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but the script doesn’t delve into it beyond a couple of simple verses; it becomes a way to take the story to its anti-climatic courtroom climax, and little else.