Legendary animator, and two time Academy Award nominee, Bill Plympton returns to the big screen with his tenth feature film, Cheatin’. Told in his trademark hand-drawn style, and without any dialogue, Plympton’s latest offering explores the rapid way in which jealousy can erode relationships.
Ella is a beautiful young woman who seems to turns heads where ever she goes. Keeping her emotions closely guarded, it appears that no one will ever be able to crack the code to her heart. Of course all of this changes when a bumper car collision brings her and Jake, the handsome physical specimen who works at the local gas station, together. As is often the case with newlyweds, Ella and Jake’s married life is full of love and passion. While other women constantly flirt with Jake and try to tempt him, some slip him their numbers and others go as far as throwing their bras at him, the strapping man – whose muscles seem barely contained within his skin when viewed through Plympton’s exaggerated depiction of the human form – only has eyes for Ella. However, when one particularly persistent woman provides Jake with some shocking information about Ella’s fidelity, it not only drives a wedge in the couple’s relationship, but also sends each of them down rather dangerous paths.
Tackling themes of jealousy, fate and insecurity through only images, Cheatin’ finds several inventive ways to maintain the audience’s attention throughout the film. Scenes such as Ella and Jake’s initial meeting and a hilarious sequence involving a less than subtle convict-turned-hired killer helps to keep the pace moving. Outside the stellar animation, Plympton also provides the film with a whimsical charm that further enhances the audiences’ overall engagement in the plight of the central couple.
Where the film gets a bit muddled is in the final twenty minutes when several of the loose threads, such as the one in which Ella enlists the help of a disgraced magician and his soul transferring machine, get tangled together. The narrative takes such a sharp turn into the fantastical that it never quite figures out how to navigate back to road it was once on. What original starts off as an interesting examination of a couple on the brink, dissolves into an insane series of comedic events that does not gel well with everything that came before it.
Fortunately, there is more than enough in Bill Plympton’s Cheatin’ to overcome its sloppy finale. It is refreshing to see in this day and age, where family friendly 3D films are the bulk of animated films hitting theatres, that there are artists like Plympton not afraid to focus on adult themes in a thoroughly imaginative and entertaining way.
Wednesday, May 20, 9:30 PM, The Royal Cinema