Movie Review: Bill Plympton’s ‘Cheatin’ Is The Most Surreal Dramatic Movie In Years

Review By Bradley Smith

From Bill Plympton, the “King of Indie Animation”, comes a surreal animated story of love, desire, jealousy, revenge, loneliness, magic, and murder. Without any dialogue, only grunts or other noises, Cheatin’ conveys a heartwarming tale about two people who meet, fall in love, get married, and live happily… well, maybe not; not if they let the fallout from the actions of a seductress dictate their jealous actions. Leave the kids at home, suspend reality and disbelief, and enjoy what is probably the most surreal dramatic movie I’ve seen in years.

The movie opens with Ella, a woman in yellow, walking with her face stuck in a book oblivious or uninterested with the world around her. A bumper car operator gets her attention and convinces her to participate in a bumper car ride where a series of disastrous events leads to a chance meeting with Jake, who instantly breaks through layers of protection around her heart. Jake is a very muscular gas station attendant who frequently receives unwanted attention from other women, but he only has eyes for Ella.
One of Jake’s rejected seducers does not take the rejection well and sets out to drive a wedge between Jake and Ella. When she succeeds in convincing Jake that Ella has been unfaithful, Jake gets revenge by giving in to the seductions of what seems like every other woman in town. Feeling lonely and rejected, Ella soon discovers Jake’s infidelity and seeks revenge of her own.

Further suspension of reality is presented in the last third of the movie when Ella stumbles upon a disgraced magician who has a machine that can transfer one person’s mind/soul into the body of anyone anywhere. He helps Ella try to reclaim her happiness by transferring her mind/soul into Jake’s lovers just before their scheduled rendezvous. A cop and a hitman also figure into the climactic moments that will decide the fate of Jake and Ella.

It is kind of apropos that there is no dialogue in the film as a simple conversation could’ve avoided all the heartbreak, misunderstanding, and infidelity; just like in life. Plympton is a great visual story teller; the animation in this movie is well-drawn and does a fantastic job communicating the story, including both comedic and dramatic elements.

RELEASE DATE: Friday, April 3 in New York (Village East) with a national roll out to follow including: Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis, Denver, Portland and others throughout April.

Also Available Nationwide Exclusively on Vimeo On Demand on April 21.

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