Bill Plympton introduced his new feature at the AFI fest in Hollywood. He also announced that this was the film’s West Coast Premier (11/5/08). Plympton comes across as a very genuine and grateful artist. He sounded humble rather than boastful when he announced, “I drew every drawing in this film. I worked 12 hours a day, 6 days a week for over a year”. It’s easy to believe too, because like his shorts, the film is full of Plympton’s personality.
Bill Plypmton has made a name for himself with his quirky style that looks like the animation is done with colored pencils and is infused with a strange slightly surreal sense of humor. “Idiots” follows in this tradition, and is full of great characters, disturbing sight gags, psychedelic transitions and a strange mixture of bleak cynicism and irascible humor.
The main character, “Angel” is a horrible despicable man. He’s bitter, and starts off every morning battling his alarm clock and the cute bird the unerringly chooses his window sill to chirp at. Angel stumbles through the morning routine, of breakfast, road rage filled traffic, and battling for a parking spot at a local bar, where he sells illegal firearms to less than scrupulous denizens. The bar has its share of regulars, The owner, his vixen of a wife, and a fat woman who plays solitaire in the corner.
One morning Angel grows wings. Despite his attempts to get rid of them, they start to slowly influence his behavior. Not only does he learn to fly, but he also finds it difficult to act as callously as he once did before. But he also discovers that his new found glory is coveted by other characters who have diabolical ways of achieving their goals.
The film contains almost no dialogue and relies on the characters’ actions to convey the story, and yet it’s never difficult to understand what’s happening. Additionally Plympton does a fantastic job of balancing tone and theme as the film slides from comedy, to noir-mystery, to morality play, to romance.
There are numerous fantasy scenes that also add whimsy and character development. In an early sequence, a butterfly emerges from Angel’s hair, and each of the characters in the little bar day dreams about what it means to them. The Bar owner wants to capture the butterfly and use it to for profit, the fat woman wants to have its natural beauty and fantasizes being worshipped by men, The Barkeep’s wife would like to soar above the heavens on its back. Meanwhile, Angel just wants to smash it. And he does.
The sequences where Angel learns to fly are also inventive and fun. In these sequences Plympton’s style smoothes out capturing the beauty and exhilaration as Angel soars above the clouds for the first time.
The film also features two Tom Waits songs as part of its score.
Plympton’s animated style isn’t for everyone. There is a certain quality to it that might be inaccessible to a mainstream audience, there are no musical number featuring sachrinely sweet forrest creatures and the humor and character motivations are unapologetically adult oriented. But for those looking for something a little different, a little magical, and slightly sublime, Idiots & Angels fits the bill wonderfully!