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article imageReview: Cheatin' is a surreal tale of infidelity Special

By Michael Thomas     May 19, 2015 in Entertainment
The latest film from animation master Bill Plympton tells a tale of misunderstanding, attempting murder and projected consciousness.
Infidelity is always soul-crushing to both parties involved, but Cheatin', the latest full-length feature from Bill Plympton, makes that even more apparent.
Ella is constantly being hounded by men, but in the opening few minutes finds herself in a bizarre and potentially deadly situation with bumper cars until she's rescued by Jake, seemingly the man of her dreams. The two get married and the scene is set for the film's main conflict.
A parade of women attempt to seduce Jake, but fail either because Jake flat-out rejects them or because Ella interferes. One woman makes it look like Ella has cheated, causing Jake to consider a final option before instead indulging in countless affairs.
No doubt Ella will find out, and when she does, she goes beyond conventional means to write the wrong.
Cheatin' is a hypnotic 75 minutes thanks to the surreal animation and lack of dialogue. Plympton draws Jake and Ella in the most absurd ways possible; they are both stick thin, except for Ella's exaggerated face, bosom and behind, and Jake is extremely chest-heavy with more abs than anyone can count.
That absurdity applies to everything in the film, from the army of cupids that try to repair Ella's heart to the fish that gets stranded in Jake's car as he tries to draw it off the cliff. The tale of cheating takes a supernatural turn, but the film is so constantly challenging perceptions of reality that the concept of switched bodies doesn't seem so far-fetched.
Plympton's meditation on faithfulness is interesting in that the main cause of a fractured relationship (at one point literally represented by Ella and Jake's bed split in two) isn't diminished love, but an outside force. Jake only cheats when he thinks Ella has, and both parties would like nothing more than for things to return to the way they are.
For a 75-minute film, Cheatin is surprisingly dense, and will keep audiences transfixed from beginning to end.
The film will be playing for one night only at the Royal in Toronto.
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