Jacob's Review of The Painting
I have a lot of mixed feelings about The Painting. First of all, I watched the English dub, which I think was pretty bad. The dialogue was really quite atrocious--I don't know if that was a problem with the original French script, or if it got dumbed down and simplified for "children" (because in America, animated films are obviously for kids). But even if the English script was 100% faithful to the French, the voice actors just didn't deliver compelling performances. (Not to mention that dubbing over animation is usually ok--lip movement isn't precise anyway--however, here there are some live-action scenes which made the overdub highly distracting.)
Aside from that--which is actually a pretty major issue--I'm a bit iffy about the message being delivered. It sets up a very obvious 3-class system. The high, ruling class were painted perfectly, the "middle" class was painted but left unfinished, and the low class were rough black & white sketches. It's all based on visuals.
And so a problem emerges. This is obviously a story where the unfinished and rough sketch characters could stand in for a variety of people who are marginalized in real life: there are some parallels to homosexuality, African Americans, the have-nots of the world. But the second you start to view The Painter allegorically, you have to acknowledge that it is saying that there is something wrong with these imperfect characters that needs to be fixed.
And fixed they do--the characters go out and fix themselves. (I know that is a spoiler, but seriously, I think people--especially parents--need to know what this movie is actually advocating). Even if you choose to not think about the story in allegory--the characters aren't representing any body of people other than the specific one within their own painted world--I have a core problem with how The Painter assigns the need to change to the VICTIMIZED not the oppressors. The victimized "classes" have to change to be accepted by the ruling class. Which is the exact OPPOSITE moral that should be communicated.
There are a few moments which, to the thoughtful (and probably adult) viewer, show that the filmmakers don't totally buy into the very idea they're presenting. Our main character doesn't fix her "flaws", even after someone confronts her about it (showing the attitudes are still ugly) and the painter himself states that he didn't think that anything further needed to be done; he takes in the information that his creations weren't satisfied with his job with the sort of sad, knowing smile that you'd expect out of, say, Dumbledore. Both of those moments feel pretty slight, however, and don't--can't!--erase the ideology outlined through the rest of the movie.
Which is a crying shame because visually and logistically The Painter is a tour de force. That I could write the above paragraphs and still squeak out a 2.5 rating is a testament to just how vibrant and interesting the visual world presented is. If you look at The Painter solely as an adventure, it succeeds grandly. It brings together a trek in and out of paintings with very few flaws. Some of the scenes are about as beautiful as I've ever seen on the big screen.
Unfortunately, it's impossible to separate the adventure aspects from the moralizing, and with such a huge flub on the moralizing end, it's impossible to recommend The Painter.