[NOTE: NEVER read reviews online if you expect to avoid “spoilers”]
Can a plagiarist really be a movie monster? Basically, yeah.
Brilliantly portrayed by Christoph Waltz, the Walter Keane depicted in “Big Eyes” is based on the real life Walter Keane, who took credit, fame and money for his wife Margaret’s artwork — art which depicted saddened, waif-like children with big eyes.
At first it’s an arrangement her character mildly agreed to, albeit reluctantly. Why? Walter convinced Margaret (Amy Adams) that a female artist couldn’t be successful anyway. However, her husband became ever more controlling — at one point threatening to have her killed if she revealed the truth! If that’s not enough, she discovered that Walter was lying about creating his own art. Ouch!
Basically, Walter hit new lows left and right, and the film adequately shows the torment that was their marriage. It’s a bizarre situation where Margaret was essentially a mill artist — cranking out work so her husband could slap his name on it. Was he entirely evil? Maybe not, but his depiction here is far from flattering. Even if some of the story is fictionalized, Walter’s character is still very much in doubt.
At best, Walter was a talented con man; While he was skilled at marketing and certainly played a role in Margaret’s own success, the torment and the lies could not stand, and the Hyde overpowered the Jekyll.
Ultimately, their marriage ended, and the matter of who did the art was settled in court. How? The court had Walter and Margaret compete in an “art-off.” As one might expect, Margaret won by a landslide. It only took her 53 minutes to complete a painting. Walter didn’t paint anything at all, complaining of a sore shoulder. Ouch again!