Reviews: Bill Plympton's Cheatin'

Michelle reviews Bill Plympton's latest, Cheatin'.

"Come here. Gimme a kiss, fo' I
tro you a beatin!!!"
Unfortunately, hand-drawn animation seems to be a dying art. We are now inundated with glossy computer animated films as far as the eye can see with nothing to break up the monotony. That is not to say that CGI is inherently bad, I just miss the human touch and love that goes into 2D cell animation. Luckily, there are people like Bill Plympton who are willing to keep the tradition alive and inject their blood, sweat, and tears into every single frame.

Cheatin’ is the latest full feature film from Plympton, who was most famous in the nineties for his wonderfully bizarre animated short cartoons. If you are unfamiliar with his art style, think of Norman Rockwell as imagined through a funhouse mirror while on LSD; Americana but through the eyes of someone who is slightly twisted. Everything has a nebulous shape and form that is recognizable at first glance but shifts around like a lava lamp to skewed perspectives and delineations. It’s squishy and organic and very much an extension of Bill Plympton himself. Because he plays with symmetry, the character designs don’t always look appealing but he also uses this to convey tone and emotion.

"This is what my friends meant
when they said you'd suck
the life out of me!"
The story in Cheatin’ is your basic “boy meets girl” romance with some interesting twists and turns thrown in. There is no actual spoken dialogue in the film save for some gibberish, gasps and grunts. That means everything has to be explained visually and it puts the spotlight on the animation to move the story along. I found it to be engaging and unique but admittedly it does end up being a slightly shallow experience because a lot of nuance is lost without the ability for the characters to explain how they are feeling. Things move along too quickly and you never get a chance to savor what is happening on the screen. I did get emotionally invested in the characters though and cared about what happened to them. That’s hard to do without anyone talking so that is a definite plus for this film.

There is quite a bit of sex in this film and it’s definitely for adults only. Plympton has always been a little bit naughty with a dry sense of humor and fans of his work come to expect this. This film is the best I have ever seen his animation look and everything is lush with a lovely impressionist-styled color pallet. The musical score is interesting as well and carries much of the story; the same as it used to back in the days of silent film. Everything combines to showcase a unique and captivating take on a simple love story. Animation aficionados or Bill Plympton devotees would do well to check this film out.

-Michelle Kisner