Roughly two years ago, I discovered a new series as soon as it’s cover met my eye:
Much to my pleasure, I found that not only are there dozens of ooky-spooky vintage photographs within this book, but the story’s narrative is woven by mentioned photographs – how cool is that? I’m still on the third book, and the series isn’t all that bad. It’s dark and whimsical, just as I like it – lots of cool characters too. The love angle’s a little weird, but that can be discussed another day.
Naturally, like most hit young adult novels, a film adaptation was inevitable; between the eerie imagery and semi-period setting, Burton was an apt choice. As for the remainder of the adaptation, considering all of the deviations… it got kinda weird.
Miss Peregrine follows Jacob Portman (Asa Butterfield), a teenager who discovers that the amazing stories his late grandfather raised him with may had lead to his mysterious, gruesome death. Jacob uncovers a hidden world lost in time and space, occupied by people known as “peculiars,” (not unlike X-Men‘s mutants) protected by the enigmatic Miss Alma Peregrine (Eva Green).
Jake soon finds that he unknowingly lead danger right to his new friends’ door, for though this world is wondrous, it’s is also wrought with horrors.
Sometimes it’s easy to put the source material out of mind, but in the case of Miss Peregrine, something really bothered me about Emma (Ella Purnell). For those unfamiliar with the book, Olive and Emma originally have the opposite abilities (Olive is also a much younger, so that was weird).
As someone who can manipulate fire, Emma is an incredibly strong presence for Jacob, and thusly they have a more complex, interesting relationship. She’s also much braver and more fierce, and downright pretty cool.
By giving Emma the air ability (a tweaked one at that), she seems so much more fragile (if not useless) than necessary, which lends this movie’s greater issue: there are so many characters here, there’s hardly any development. By the end of it, sure Jacob’s got some more guts and gumption. Awesome. And I guess the rest of the kids do too, but can we really say?
Basically what I mean to say is that this film, as fun as it was to see these characters, was terribly shallow. Granted, I figured the studio was shooting more for a one-off rather than a trilogy, but this adaptation felt awfully muddled. Even if I wasn’t familiar with the source material, I feel as if this story would have felt lackluster in the end – not terrible, just really okay.
I am kicking myself for not seeing this movie sooner. As a self-proclaimed kitsch enthusiast, I’ve always been familiar with the works of Margaret Keane – I even knew that for a time that her husband, Walter, claimed to have painted some of her works. To learn the scope and impact of this pop art movement, however, was beyond my belief. I think that it is important that this story is told, and the execution of said story could not be more apt than through the lens of Tim Burton.
Big Eyes steps back from the spectacle and leans on solely on story through character; Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz play off of each other seamlessly. Adams’ portrayal of a tortured artist is empathetic and powerful.
When Waltz as Walter Keane starts twisting that knife, you feel it. Each turn makes you sick to your stomach, which makes Margaret’s victory all the more satisfying. And it’s not like he’s a villain from the get-go; you can see these people fall in love, and it makes you wonder if he was truly intending on using her from the beginning, or if inspiration struck and things snowballed from there. (Though, I’m thinking a combination for two.)
Even if you can’t stand her artwork, Big Eyes is an important film. This a story of a woman who struggles in a time where men were meant to be relied upon – a woman who lacks confidence, who is told to not even try because “people don’t like girl art” anyway. To see her rise and fall and finally stand up for her self, it just makes you feel good, you know?
Frankly, this is a story that needs to be seen – it’s just a shame that it received such little lift. Though the focused artwork of the film may be dated, the theme could not be more relevant today.