The seventh animated feature from Bill Plymton gives viewers a colorful look at what love can do to people and the consequences of betrayal. Cheatin’ was a little muddled at times, but its message was still felt throughout. Partially funded through Kickstarter, this independent feature may not be one of Plymton’s best works, but it may be one of the most socially effortless works he has done. Being mostly drawn by hand with some digital coloring may make this a weirdly beautiful piece of work.
Without any dialogue except for a few sounds from the voice cast, the story takes place in an undisclosed place and time given that most of the surroundings feel retro like the old gas stations and hats but contemporary as we see the presence of cellphones and vibrators. The film begins with Ella reading a book through town with every men being attracted to her. Once she reaches the carnival, Ella gets invited to ride the bumper cars but ends up trapped in the ride until hunky Jake comes to the rescue. Sparks fly between the two and the couple gets married and moves in together. Lots of women try to seduce Jake, but the man stays faithful to Ella no matter what.
However, their romance is cut short when one the women tries to break them apart by taking an incriminating photo of Ella getting undressed in a room full on male mannequins being mistaken for real men. Once Jake gets a hold of the photo, his gets heartbroken and attempts suicide but instead goes into adultery with long torrid affairs with different women while Ella sits at home alone wondering why her man doesn’t give love to her.
Once Ella discovers Jake’s infidelity, she tries to hire a hit man to kill Jake but the plan doesn’t work out, as she wanted. She finds a solution through a magician who has a machine allowing her to temporarily transport her consciousness to the women that Jake sleeps with. Things go haywire from there as the couple works their way to reconciliation.
The animated sequences form the foundation of this film with its drawing style and surreal scenes. The sex scenes show something of an induced dream as we see Ella and Jake morph into each other as they sing out their hearts through opera. We also get dream sequences like when Ella fantasizes about killing Jake. The animation reminds us of the old-school style of drawing dating back to the Golden Age of American animation between the 1930s and late 1960s.
The musical score by Nicole Renaud gives an established Gallic feel that suits the European-like setting in the film. The original compositions blends beautifully to show the couple’s struggles.
The story may be convoluted at times, but Cheatin’ may be one of Plymton’s best peaces of work as far as animation goes. We can see the dedication that Plymton gave into his work. Using a small crew to bring this story to life, Plymton certainly excels at what he does best. His work will definitely please viewers who are invested in independent animation. This work brings us back to a time before computer animation existed where hand drawn animation was a thing of beauty for all to see and admire.
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