Chico and Rita

I went to see Chico and Rita last night. I thought it was a beautiful looking film, wIth great production design. The cars and backgrounds were particularly stunning. It had some lovely animation ( although a quite a few dodgy bits as well.) Best of all it had a brilliant Jazz and Cuban soundtrack with lots of great musical sequences.

Pre Revolution early 50’s Cuba. Chico is a talented piano player who spots Rita singing at a bar. They sleep together but fall out the next morning thanks to the arrival of Chico’s girlfriend.

A friend gets them a gig and they gradually become a succesful professional act. Rita is offered a contract in the states without Chico. After they row she decides to accept.

Later, poor and broke Chico follows her  but she has become a big solo star, married to her manager. Jealous of their relationship her husband gets Chico deported. Years later the two of them meet again, when their luck has changed.

As a film it hasn’t really stayed with me. I don’t think this is because the characters are immoral or unlikeable as one review suggested. I think they are very likeable, believable and realistic, which is an achievement for animation.

The problem is the star crossed lovers story. Despite the fact it spans decades of their lives it doesn’t develop Chico and Rita’s relationship. I think if they’d had been together as a couple dealing with the stresses and strains of life it would have been a stronger narrative. With such potentially rich characters I could see this working. But as it is, the boy-meets-girl-looses-girl plot repeated just doesn’t quite sustain it.