What movie was that...?

18 June 2015

Inside Out

directed by Pete Docter & Ronaldo Del Carmen

I have long held the position that Pixar’s magnificent film Wall-E is a jewel in Cinema's crown and a film that represents the animation studio’s high water mark, the crest of a spectacular wave of artistic achievements that include Toy Story 1 and 2, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Ratatouille (how’s that for a resume?). The waters have receded over the years but behold, the tides may be rising again! I’m talking about Pixar’s newest classic (and it is a bona fide classic, to be sure) Inside Out, a candy colored ass kicker that packs some serious metaphorical heft. Frankly, when I sat down at this year’s CinemaCon to watch this movie, I was utterly unprepared for such a cosmic wallop. Perhaps it’s because being a new father to 2 little ladies has given me a new perspective (and with it a seemingly endless supply of worries, fears and anxieties that will surely drive up the price of antacid stocks the world over), but the way in which Docter, Del Carmen et al both contextualize and personify such abstractions as memory, self perception and happiness was terrifying, uproarious, melancholic, lovely and, in a word, revelatory. The bogglingly intricate clockwork of a child’s developing mind (according to the film) is made instantly accessible thanks to a wonderful script and phenomenal vocal talents (including Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader and Lewis Black). Riley, the little girl around whom the story revolves, is a cross country transplant struggling with having to start over in a new place, while internally her emotions grapple with their own trouble when a few of Riley core memories (of which her sense of self is comprised) are accidentally ejected from their stronghold. A mission to retrieve said core memories finds Joy (Poehler, just wonderful) and Sadness (a crucial Phyllis Smith) scrambling through every corner of Riley’s brain, from her imagination to her subconscious. There’s cutesiness to spare, to be sure, but the bravery to tell a complicated and grand story like this and actually allow for such ambiguity (I won’t spoil anything but I will say the film has no easy answers to any of the questions it poses) was a wonderfully unnerving experience for me (mainly because, in the broadest sense, I have come to expect certain themes and tones from certain genres of film). For me, Riley represented my girls, which probably is what caused this film to resonate so strongly with me, but I am sure you don’t need to be a parent to get caught up in storytelling this capable. Inside Out is hell of a thing, a picture that surprises you at every turn. Look alive, Academy!

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