One of the well-deserved nominees for Best Animated Feature is a character-driven tale that often makes good on its romantic soulfulness, becoming even more affecting in its latter-going.
Chico & Rita features the voices of Eman Xor Ona and Limara Meneses, and is bookended in Havana of the present where an elder Chico (Ona) has toiled shining shoes ever since Fidel Castro's takeover.
With jazzy Latino smooth sounds and a lustrous visual palette, the crux of a film which appears to have the artistic 'rotoscopic' prowess used by esteemed auteurs like Richard Linklater lets Chico's up-and-down existence vividly unfold from Havana of 1948 before being noticed by an actual vocalist and nonfiction film crew.
Like The Artist (in its capricious flights and sense of reinvention) a sort of meet-cute with boyish, skilled pianist Chico occurs with spunky sultry singer Rita (a magnetic Meneses) as an intimate relationship quickly begins in the bustling Cuban metropolis.
However, Rita is professionally drawn to the Big Apple, and it doesn't help that Chico has a needy former girlfriend. Filmmakers Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscol, and Tono Errando adeptly use a rich selection of songs and turbulent social times as a solid backdrop to keep the focus on the eponymous relationship over nearly half a century even when their chances are hardly upbeat.
Their scribes know how to detail real, flawed, full-bodied (sensitive, yet strong-willed) characters with issues around them as witnessed in a canny live-action mixture of drama, wit and sentiment, The Help. The tension and more ominous dramatic turns wryly tinged are harnessed with originality and nuance to leave tedium out of the equation for the onlooker.
Contributions from the production crew help the eventful imagery resonate in a film that may have discerning cineastes calling to mind Buena Vista Social Club or Havana Nights at times with the hand-drawn, finely hued animation surprisingly striking, particular in its vivid sense of time and place. Meeting the likes of Nat King Cole, Dizzy Gillepsie, and Tito Puente, among others, while listening to effective words and sounds of Ona and Menses ensures a heartfelt, meaningful cinematic experience.
|Chico and Rita||B+||B+|