The Ongoing Importance of Amy Adams’ Portrayal of Margaret Keane

On this day in 2015, Amy Adams won the Golden Globe for her portrayal of Margaret Keane in Big Eyes. This win was two-fold: it earned Amy much-deserved recognition for brilliantly telling Margaret’s story, and it brought Margaret’s story some much-deserved recognition in itself. 

Big Eyes is a biographical drama film which tells the story of American artist Margaret Keane, renowned for her distinctive paintings of subjects with large, expressive eyes. However, her work was falsely claimed by her husband, Walter Keane, who used her talent to gain fame and wealth for himself. Margaret Keane’s story is not only about her distinctive art but also about her struggle for recognition and her legal battle against her ex-husband. Amy’s compelling performance as Margaret perfectly captured her profound passion and artistic brilliance, her big-hearted love for her daughter (and for her husband, at first), as well her tenacity and determination to take back her power. 

Needless to say, Amy’s Golden Globe win was more than deserved. In her review of the film, Editor-in-Chief Jan Lisa Huttner said of Amy’s performance, “The real Margaret is a painter, and words are not her medium of expression. So Amy Adams must tell us everything Margaret is thinking and feeling while she continues to work feverishly on her canvases… and she does! This is far and away the greatest female performance to be seen anywhere this year—from art house to multiplex and everywhere in between.”

This is far and away the greatest female performance to be seen anywhere this year—from art house to multiplex and everywhere in between.

In her review of Big Eyes, Jan emphasized the importance of stories like Big Eyes: “I am sure that Margaret Keane never thought of herself as a ‘Feminist,’ and even today, at the age of 87, she still might reject that label. But the more you know about the early 1960s—about Betty Friedan and “The Problem That Has No Name,” Audrey Hepburn as the gamine Holly Golightly, etc, etc, etc—the more you will see in Big Eyes, and the more you will understand about how the choices some women made in the 1960s provided the foundation for who we are today.”

Amy’s win for the film was doubly important given that the film was, as a whole, met with mixed reviews, most (if not all) coming from men. Amy was also not nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. It was a disservice that was undoubtedly included in the buildup to the #MeToo Movement that was soon to come. Indeed, any woman who watches Big Eyes (especially an artist) will relate to and connect with this story, as well as acknowledge its huge importance. 

Indeed, any woman who watches Big Eyes (especially an artist) will relate to and connect with this story, as well as acknowledge its huge importance. 

At a Q&A for Big Eyes that Jan Lisa Huttner attended with screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, an audience member got up and asked why they didn’t interview Walter. He inquired, “Don’t you think you have been unfair to him by not including his point of view?” As Jan laments, “Why are so few people in our culture interested in women’s stories? Why do we typically demand a ‘He Said/She Said’ face-off whenever a woman tries to tell her story?”

Thus, the importance of Big Eyes lies in its insistence on telling Margaret’s story, not Walter’s, just like Margaret had to insist that her art was hers, not Walter’s. 

© Julia Lasker (1/11/2024) FF2 Media

LEARN MORE/DO MORE

Watch Big Eyes on Netflix here. Find more Big Eyes streaming options on Just Watch.

Click here for Jan Lisa Huttner’s review of Big Eyes.

Click here for Jan’s post about the Big Eyes pushback.

Order Leah Gallo’s gorgeous book Big Eyes The Film, The Art on Amazon.

CREDITS & PERMISSIONS

All images © TWC (from the original EPK provided to film critics). All Rights Reserved.

Tags: #MeToo Movement, Amy Adams, Big Eyes, Golden Globes, Margaret Keane, MeToo

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As an associate for FF2 Media, Julia writes reviews and features for films made by women. She is currently a senior at Barnard College studying Psychology. Outside of FF2, her interests include acting, creative writing, thrift shopping, crafting, and making and eating baked goods. Julia has been at FF2 for almost 4 years, and loves the company and its mission dearly.
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