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'Chicken with Plums' review: Ready to be overrated?

FictionQuantum of Solace (movie)

*1/2 (out of four)

A few years ago, an adaptation of co-writer/co-director Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel “Persepolis”—a visually creative but simplistic, episodic take on personal and political struggles—received far more praise than it deserved.

Perhaps I should have appreciated something decent when I had the chance. The latest take on a Satrapi graphic novel, “Chicken With Plums,” awkwardly tries to blend tones both moody and playful, but winds up only with tiresome, goofy darkness.

In 1958 Tehran, Nasser Ali-Khan (Mathieu Almaric of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” and “Quantum of Solace”) decides he’s going to die, his wife and two kids notwithstanding. Nasser’s violin has been smashed, so he kills himself. “Chicken with Plums” then backs up and takes us, day by day, through the eight days between the decision and the death. During this time, Nasser reflects on his life when he was young and unpleasant, rather than middle-aged, selfish and stupid.

I mean, the guy continually breaks a clock so he can return to the shop, hoping to glimpse the owner’s daughter again. Just hang out near the shop and leave the poor clock alone!

More movies should consider alternate forms of storytelling to get a point across. The often-cruel “Chicken with Plums,” however, grates on the nerves as it favors cutesy visual gimmicks and takes giant tonal swings while touching on impending death and decades-long regret. The presentation of American idiots feels totally arbitrary here, as does the look into the future to see how Nasser’s poor children turn out.

The film’s a pest as a slow trudge toward a death we know will take place, but really becomes a nuisance when trying to suggest its phony love story represents a great, life-altering bond. Few cinematic relationships are more frustrating than a forced imitation of romance posing as the real thing.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com. @mattpais

 

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