Consuming Spirits (NR)

Drama 130 April 12, 2013
By Marsha McCreadie
Be careful what you wish for: Consuming Sprits delivers, in spades, a panacea for the oxymoronic "committee of creatives" method of many contemporary films. A rare animated feature for adults, this pure vision from animator-as-auteur Chris Sullivan gestated in its creator for 15 years. The result commingles stop-motion animation, drawings, puppets, and collaged materials, and features a twisted, sometimes bitterly hip triad of characters both co-dependent and lonely in their tiny Appalachian town, on the edge of the ever-encroaching woods. It’s initially novel that they are so uniformly ugly (style by Red Grooms reconfigured by van Gogh on a bad day), yet the conceit gets stuck on itself. Earl Gray (voice of Robert Levy) is a radio talk show host offering advice about gardening, medicinal herbs, and life; Gentian Violet (Nancy Andrews) is a single woman stalwartly working three lousy jobs; her boyfriend Victor Blue (voiced by Sullivan) is trapped in the hamster wheel of Social Services. Alternating with the Lilliputian appeal of Quay Brothers–type dioramas of miniature houses and toy vehicles, perhaps purposefully jejune drawings of a shared past reveal painful memories. Sans the heart-hollowed-out aura of CGI, mood-evoking images do linger, such as aging, down-hanging female breasts; it took only two drawn lines. But Consuming Spirits is overlong. A dystopian T.S. Eliot once said, "Humankind cannot bear too much reality," maybe even in a cartoon.
Chris Sullivan Robert Levy Chris Sullivan