As you may have gathered, I enjoy stories, particularly those that seem to have something to say. As a financial planner, naturally I’m interested in money and how investors behave. However money is just a tool, what people really want are the choices that money offers. We all relate to money differently and history is littered with examples of good and not so good financial decisions.
The new Tim Burton film Big Eyes explores the true story of artist Margaret Ulbrich (Amy Adams). Primarily this is an intriguing story about how a struggling single mother, plying her skills as a street artist meets a fellow artist Walter Keane. He is charming and encouraging, enabling her to regain some sense of confidence in her own ability. Following their marriage Walter exhibits his work and includes some of his Margaret’s which she has effectively now signed as Mrs Keane. It is mistaken for his and unwilling to correct the error for fear of losing the sale, so begins a sequence of events in which he passes off Margaret’s work as his.
The deception does not come naturally to Margaret, and the severity of her “crime” is exaggerated by husband so as to ensure her silence. Largely due to his skills the work becomes commoditized, world-famous and naturally very lucrative. As the money flows in her fear about the magnitude of the crime multiplies, leading her to feel trapped, friendless in her studio, unable to take any credit for her work. One wonders whether this would have been a very different story had Walter Keane not been such a brilliant salesman and marketer. The sadness of the story is that Walter is unable to recognise the value of his own skills, preferring to deceive and take full credit for the work and is unable to acknowledge the deception.
Ultimately, Margaret finds the self-confidence to leave her increasingly belligerent husband and gains the confidence to reveal her “crime”, though in practice this is more of an unmasking of the truth. What is surprising is how it took so long and why his deception was not uncovered sooner. Therein lies an uncomfortable truth – much like the emperors new clothes, sometimes the obvious observation isn’t spoken for fear of appearing foolish, even the art critics (the experts) misinterpret the source of the work. It is only a judge who assesses the claims with the obvious solution…much like King Solomon’s wisdom when two women argue over a baby…. so when it comes to assessing a fraudster, you need eyes to see.
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Faking It – Big EyesDominic2017-01-06T14:39:31+00:00