In 1958, Margaret leaves her husband and takes her young daughter Jane to North Beach, San Francisco. Supporting her daughter alone, Margaret gets a job painting illustrations at a furniture factory. While creating portraits at an outdoor art show, Margaret meets Walter Keane, who is selling his Parisian street scene paintings. Soon, Walter proposes to her and they marry.
Walter goes to a popular jazz club and tries to convince the club’s owner, Enrico Banducci, to purchase the couple’s paintings. He only agrees to rent out the walls to Walter. A drunk woman is touched by one of Margaret’s paintings and buys it. Walter fights with Banducci and ends up on the front page of the local newspaper.
When Walter goes to the club again it is packed with curious people. Dick Nolan, a celebrity gossip columnist (who serves as the film’s narrator), wants to know more about Walter’s art, but is only interested in Margaret’s paintings. Afterward, Walter shows Margaret all the money they have made from the sales. He tells her they are a great team, she can stay at home painting and he will sell her works.
Walter opens up his own Keane gallery, promoting the art as his own work, and sells reproductions. Margaret becomes more upset about Walter taking credit for her art and lying to Jane about who is the real artist. Margaret decides to paint in a different style with elongated features and small eyes, so that she can honestly tell people she is also a painter.
Margaret and Walter move into a mansion. While going through a crate Margaret finds a stack of paintings of Parisian street scenes, but they are all signed by S. CENIC. She realizes Walter paints over the name of the original artist and claims the paintings as his own. Margaret confronts Walter, he confesses saying he always wanted to be an artist, but never had the talent.
Walter learns of the New York World’s Fair and demands Margaret paint something to put on display; she refuses and Walter threatens to have her killed. Jane discovers her mother working on the World’s Fair painting “Tomorrow Forever”. Jane tells her mother she always knew that she was the real artist.
At a party, Walter is angered after reading John Canaday’s scathing review of the “Tomorrow Forever” exhibit and confronts Canaday. Back at home Walter is still enraged and starts throwing lit matches at Margaret and Jane. They run into the studio and lock the door. Margaret runs away with Jane.
One year later, Margaret and Jane have settled in Honolulu, Hawaii. Walter will not agree to a divorce unless Margaret signs over the rights to every painting, and produces 100 more. Margaret agrees and continues sending paintings to California. Margaret is visited by two Jehovah’s Witnesses who convince her that honesty is important.
The next time Walter receives the paintings, they are signed “MDH Keane”. On a Hawaiian radio show, Margaret reveals she is the real artist behind the paintings attributed to Walter, making national news. Dick Nolan publishes Walter’s claims that Margaret has “gone nuts”. Margaret sues both Walter and the newspapers that printed his version of the story for libel and slander.
Directed by: Tim Burton
Starring: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston, Jon Polito, Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman, Terence Stamp, Madeleine Arthur
Screenplay by: Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski
Production Design by: Rick Heinrichs
Cinematography by: Bruno Delbonnel
Film Editing by: JC Bond
Costume Design by: Colleen Atwood
Set Decoration by: Craig Lewis
Music by: Danny Elfman
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language.
Studio: The Weinstein Company
Release Date: December 25, 2014