The film explores the relationship between painter Margaret Keane and her husband, Walter, who took credit for her work. He lived the high life while she toiled in relative anonymity in the Bay Area.
Walter Keane made his mark in the late 1950s with stylistic paintings of big-eyed children, mass producing prints sold cheaply in hardware stores and gas stations. While huge sales made him a regular The Tonight Show guest, there was one problem.
"He couldn't paint a lick," said Karaszewski. "He was a genius businessman who desperately wanted to be an artist, and who married an artist with a self-image problem and took full advantage. He kept her in the basement and signed his name to her work."
The ruse broke up the marriage. After Margaret became a Jehovah's Witness and embraced that faith's prohibition against lying, she finally blew the whistle on her ex.
"Her rebellion coincided with the feminist movement, and when he began calling her his crazy ex-wife, she sued him," Alexander said.
The 1965 court case climaxed when the judge put up two easels and challenged plaintiff and defendant to get up and paint. Margaret did, but Walter brushed off the challenge, blaming a shoulder injury.