‘Chicken for Linda!’ review: Bold way forward for animation


Some memories float in the ether of our subconscious waiting for a catalyst to bring them back to the foreground. The key to unlock them may come in the form of a dish seasoned with ineffable nostalgia. That kind of unforgettable flavor is what the uproarious, sublimely gorgeous hand-drawn musical “Chicken for Linda!” serves. From co-directors and life partners Sébastien Laudenbach and Chiara Malta, it’s an early and hard-to-beat contender for the title of best animated feature of the year.

Mimicking the technique of Laudenbach’s 2016 solo project “The Girl Without Hands” (a much darker fable but equally breathtaking), this new collaboration utilizes charmingly simple line drawings for the characters. There’s a volatility to how they move through the world that denotes the human involvement behind every single frame. It’s an approach that rejects using color in a realistic way; instead, each character is represented by a single hue, while the hand-painted backgrounds aim for a similarly symbolic quality.

In direct opposition to the homogeneity of photorealism that dominates U.S. animation (thankfully, stylized projects like the “Spider-Verse” movies are challenging this), “Chicken for Linda!” looks as if it was directly ripped from the pages of an artist’s sketchbook.

After immediately announcing itself as an idiosyncratic proposition, “Chicken for Linda!” drops us into a household in disrepair: a working-class Parisian apartment where Linda (voiced by Mélinée Leclerc), a relentlessly determined and vivacious young girl, her mother, Paulette (Clotilde Hesme), and their cat have lived even before the death of the girl’s father when she was an infant. Later, in a striking sequence that shows Paulette driving at night as washes of color represent passing car headlights, young Linda asks about the afterlife and her dad, whom she barely remembers, with heartbreaking sincerity. Paulette can only offer curt answers.

A mother stands with a plate of food in an animated film.

A scene from the movie “Chicken for Linda!”


Far from rosy, the emotionally layered mother-daughter dynamic is laced with both believable harshness and unconditional devotion, creating a portrayal that makes the depiction of childhood in most American family-oriented films feel simplistic. There’s a gravitas to watching Paulette cry after committing an injustice against her spirited daughter, mistakenly accusing her of losing the ring her late husband gave her. Regretful, the flawed mom promises to cook the chicken with peppers that Linda’s Italian father, Giulio (Pietro Sermonti), used to make.

But Paulette’s plan could hit a snag because of a general labor strike — not a rare event in France. All businesses are closed, so where can this atoning single mother purchase the main ingredient? Linda won’t let it go. The idea of this recipe is her only connection to her dad. The search for chicken launches adult and child into a film-long chase, each jaw-dropping occurrence folding new people into a hilariously madcap escapade.

That even the most seemingly inconsequential supporting characters display recognizable human behavior (often unflattering and messy) and well-defined personalities further attests to the deftness of Malta and Laudenbach’s writing. There’s Linda’s aunt Astrid (Laetitia Dosch), a fiery yoga instructor who eats copious amounts of candy to cope with frustration; a rookie police officer; a gentlemanly truck driver; and a pack of rowdy kids (Linda’s friends) left alone while their parents are out demonstrating in the streets.

Each of the narrative seeds planted (a leak in Linda’s apartment, a batch of peppers left in the oven too long, Astrid’s sweet tooth) pays off, yet never in an easily predictable manner. And yet, though every piece eventually finds its place, this colorful entrée of a movie possesses an unruly spirit, as untameable as the live chicken that Linda and Paulette are after.

But it’s the movie’s musical numbers — which rival Disney productions for thematic poignancy and visual whimsy — that surprise the most. Centering the adult characters, these fantastical sequences provide insight into the very real preoccupations grown-ups face, rendered with a childlike playfulness that Linda (and younger viewers) can comprehend. The tunes function as intergenerational bridges: proof that age doesn’t grant you all the answers.

It’s mind-blowing how many ideas the extraordinarily kinetic “Chicken for Linda!” packs into only 76 minutes, brought to life by a minuscule team with a fraction of the resources that studio offerings (with half the wit and depth) have. This tale of parents and poultry more than earns the exclamation point in its title. It sweeps you into a whirlwind of ingenuity, bite after animated bite.

‘Chicken for Linda!’

Not rated

In French and Italian with English subtitles

Running time: 1 hour, 16 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Royal, West Los Angeles


Source link

Scroll to Top