Tim Burton’s effort to get back to moviemaking basics (with a tenth the budget of recent efforts) may be laudable, even necessary, but ultimately founders on a storyline too fragile to support a feature-length film. Maybe a different POV or an earlier starting point (less newspaper columnist/more DOLL’S HOUSE backstory) could have added texture to this fact-inspired tale of the commercial juggernaut Margaret & Walter Keane made off their critically despised paintings & reproductions of sad-eyed waifs. (Burton’s personal collection of sad-eyed waifs includes most of his leading ladies: Winona Rider; Christina Ricci; Eva Green; Helena Bonham Carter.) The twist in the tale, that Walter took all the credit while Margaret did all the art, can hardly be considered much of a surprise; in Hollywood, it’s standard operating procedure!* And the all too obvious solution, painting a picture to settle the issue, proves . . . er . . . an all too obvious solution. Yet, the film has its visual pleasures, though not in the action scenes where Burton, unable to call upon an army of well-paid studio technicians, remains all thumbs, as always. But look at the San Francisco clubs; tasty as a late ‘50s Paramount VistaVision production. We might be enjoying Daniel Fapp’s smoky interiors for Danny Kaye’s THE FIVE PENNIES/’59. And speaking of pleasures, no surprise to find Amy Adams just about flawless as Margaret Keane.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *As in TIM BURTON’S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS/’93, directed by (wait for it) Henry Selick. Not that anyone’s hiding credit, but still . . .