Animated Film Chicken For Linda! Gives Plenty to Chew On

Movies Reviews Chiara Malta
Animated Film Chicken For Linda! Gives Plenty to Chew On

Homecooked family meals are a classic kind of halcyon memory, as familiar smells and tastes bring back a time when things seemed a bit simpler (or at least, that’s how it worked in Ratatouille). However, what if instead of immersing you in an idyllic past, a particular familiar dish drudged up things you’d rather forget? Chicken for Linda! is a puckish film from directors Chiara Malta and Sébastien Laudenbach that gets at this question, using creative animation to portray a family coming to terms with an old meal and all the heartbreak that comes with it.

Following a parenting mishap, Paulette (Clotilde Hesme) promises her rambunctious eight-year-old daughter Linda (Melinée Leclerc) a favor as a make-good. Unfortunately for Paulette, what Linda wants most is chicken with peppers, the same dish that ended up as Paulette’s late husband’s final supper. And not only does this request come with the tremendous weight of unresolved grief, but it’s also damn inconvenient–they’re all out of poultry and the supermarkets are closed due to a general strike. Bound by her word, Paulette sets out to find chicken as the pair encounter chaos and camaraderie in the streets of France.

From the jump, the movie exudes playfulness in its abstract shapes and bright primary colors, as its visuals invite energetic bedlam. Characters are each assigned a single hue, but these shades bleed through the linework to create a loose look that melds perfectly with increasingly frenetic events. You wouldn’t think a quest for ingredients could go this off the rails, but as chicken continues to elude Paulette and Linda, their adventure intersects with a long list of folks, including an aggressively incompetent cop, Paulette’s beleaguered sister and basically every kid in the neighborhood, most of whom prove endearing.

Particularly, as Linda’s peers come to her aid, the film hones in on some deeply amusing adolescent hijinks: younger brothers escape confinement, dogs are ridden as mounts, apartment elevators are repurposed into soccer goals, and many laws are broken. This mischief feels specific, rising above clichés about snot-nosed kids as their mayhem matches nicely with Linda and Paulette’s escalating escapades. That said, although these scenes are quite entertaining, a little too much of the movie’s brief 76-minute runtime is dedicated to these misadventures, diverting attention away from our central characters.

As for our mother-daughter duo, the two have a relationship that feels quite real. Paulette’s initial exasperation and bottled loss convey the difficulties of being a single parent, making her seem only slightly awful when she blows up at her kid in front of the whole neighborhood. It’s ugly, but the type of meltdown that almost every family has dealt with at one point or another, and works as a shorthand for how this tale generally reads as genuine rather than nostalgic.

After this sequence, Paulette and Linda make for a charming duo, with the former’s tendency to bowl through problems escalated by the latter’s rule-breaking encouragement. The picture wouldn’t work without this central bond, and the lengths they go to prepare this meal, running from the cops and all, makes it clear how much they care about each other. Malta and Laudenbach’s script drives at the poignancy underneath this central act, showing us how Paulette continues to push forward even though this dish drudges up difficult memories.

In the evocative opening, we witness candy-colored fragments of the past as if viewed through a keyhole. A voice extolls that these images lie dormant, waiting to be plucked from memory and relived. It’s a striking sequence that hangs over the rest of the picture, clarifying that this story is about confronting the good and bad of the past instead of just luxuriating in its glory days. This is just one aesthetic highlight of many thanks to an art style that capitalizes on visual abstraction, like in the handful of lively musical numbers. In the most hilarious of the bunch, Paulette’s sister, Astrid (Lætitia Dosch), sings over an imaginatively rendered confectionary coma to cope with her sibling’s lifelong disruptive behavior, as a new victim of Paulette’s whims flatly repeats, “I told her no” in the background to sidesplitting effect. Another of these daydreams acts as the narrative’s emotional climax, a bittersweet moment of clarity that’s only slightly let down by how quickly this flick comes to a close.

Even beyond these more ostentatious moments, the animation here conveys smaller details like the physicality of movement, whether that means strands of hair gently swaying or subtle facial movements that tune us into the tenor of a scene. The color-blocked style may make things look simple at a glance, but the animation captures a range of motion that imbues the entire cast with personality.

Chicken for Linda! is a delightful picture that uses splashes of color and frantic turns to immerse us in this quest for poultry. It places us in the complicated feelings that come from this particular dish, whisking us through the rollicking present and hefty past as this mother-daughter pair confront their grief. While the film’s short runtime and chaotic digressions mean the denouement doesn’t land quite as profoundly as it should, it conjures a rich and memorable range of flavors.

Directors: Chiara Malta, Sébastien Laudenbach
Writers: Chiara Malta, Sébastien Laudenbach
Starring: Melinée Leclerc, Clotilde Hesme, Lætitia Dosch, Alenza Dus, Scarlett Cholleton, Anaïs Weller, Estéban, Patrick Pineau, Claudine Acs
Release Date: July 2, 2024 (Digital)

Elijah Gonzalez is an assistant Games and TV Editor for Paste Magazine. In addition to playing and watching the latest on the small screen, he also loves film, creating large lists of media he’ll probably never actually get to, and dreaming of the day he finally gets through all the Like a Dragon games. You can follow him on Twitter @eli_gonzalez11.

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