Everyone should go see Pixar’s Inside Out. Saying that “everyone” should see something is a pretty common way to praise something, but here I am literally saying that every single person should experience this movie. It’s important, not just as a piece of art, but morally speaking as well. If you are parent, or someone who is planning on having kids, or someone who is or has been a kid – you need to see this movie. It’s got an ambitious premise, a solid script, perfect casting, and is legitimately hilarious; but all of that isn’t as important as the lessons it teaches about being a child and being a parent. It’s also the way it conveys these messages that really gets to me, the complete mastery of metaphoric storytelling. Nothing is overly complicated, it’s all easy to follow, and yet there’s a ton of depth to it all. It’s a movie that explores the importance of sadness, the tragedy of growing up, and the nature of joy. Happiness isn’t forever and sadness isn’t something that should be suppressed, parents can say the most devastating things without realizing it, and children have to learn how to communicate their pain. These are all beautiful messages that the movie teaches so well, and I’m not sure I can do it justice by just telling you about it, but I will tell you just some of the things I loved about it (without spoiling it of course).
It’s perfectly cast
Amy Poehler as Joy, Phillis Smith as Sadness, Lewis Black as Anger, Bill Hader as Fear, and Mindy Kaling as Disgust is as close to a dream cast as is possible. Everyone is fit for their role, and one could easily tell by seeing their work in The Office, Parks and Recreation, and various other projects. Also, for playing characters that are literally just singular emotions, these people really know how to give ranged readings. Poehler and Smith in particular really give nuanced performances for characters that you would assume to be one-dimensional. Ironically enough, it’s Amy Poehler’s Joy who gets the most heartbreaking material of all the emotions.
The relationship between Joy and Sadness
Both the characters and emotions of joy and sadness are related to one another in such a beautiful way. The dynamic between Poehler and Smith’s characters is hilarious, but it’s also heartfelt because of the message we receive about their nature from watching them. Feeling joy is obviously important, but this movie makes a compelling case to Joy’s character and the audience as to why sadness is just as significant. People need to feel sadness to make sense of their feelings and express themselves, and the fact that the film not only touches on this message but nails the hell out of it is incredible.
The dual and metaphoric nature of the story
This movie almost works as two separate films. It’s essentially about the experiences of a girl who’s going through a life crisis after a major change, but it’s presented through the lens of her emotions. Things that occur inside her mind translate into the real world in a seamless fashion. Things like repressing negative feelings and the consequences of doing this are shown as exaggerated disasters on the inside and quiet despair on the outside. Everything that happens inside and out feeds off each other in the film, and it creates an experience unlike anything I’ve had before.
How the traps of parenting are portrayed
Being a parent is hard. You’re constantly trying to say the right thing to a little person who is occasionally supremely selfish while trying to maintain your own identity and aspirations. When Riley (who’s mind serves as this films central location) is given innocent encouragement by her mother about how she should deal with the changes in her life, it spirals into a series of events that almost send her into a depression. The sentiment was subtly terrible and had devastating consequences, but it came from a good place and it was never meant to be anything but positive. Normally these kinds of developments are contrived, but what occurred was so deeply relatable and real that it actually affected me in a way no other movie has before. I sat in the theatre thinking “I’ve been there!” when things began spiraling for Riley, which connected me to the events of the story. It seriously felt like the stakes couldn’t be any higher even though we were just talking about the fate of one preteen girl.
It illustrates the difference between sadness and depression
Watching this film, I got the impression that a lot of what was being shown was very well researched. It was easy to follow, but there was definitely the distinct feeling that the people behind this really dug deep into what makes the human mind tick. Nowhere is that more clear than with the portrayals of the feeling of sadness and depression. Months ago, I foolishly predicted that this film would deal with a girl that is going through actual clinical depression (which is wildly inappropriate for an animated G-rated film in hindsight), and while she never goes through actual depression it is certainly touched on. Sadness is portrayed as something that helps us work through our feelings with others, but depression is portrayed as something that occurs when our own feelings don’t reach us. Keeping everything to yourself and wallowing in your own despair until nothing, not even your own thoughts and emotions, can reach you is incredibly devastating, and this film goes above and beyond in showing us that. The death of your childhood is tragic, but it can ultimately be a bittersweet thing, but the death of your own sense of self is one of the greatest tragedies that can befall a person’s mind.
Inside Out is a triumph. A film that should dissuade all doubt on Pixar’s ability to continue to create masterpieces, and is something that should be viewed by just about any parent and child. It’s infinitely relatable, timeless, and beautiful. It also happens to be well acted, hilarious, and beautifully scored (seriously, the soundtrack is phenomenal). It’s a movie that tells you that growing up is never easy, and that it’s OK and sometimes necessary to be sad. These are deeply ambitious themes in a deeply ambitious film, and I am certain that I will never experience anything like it again.
Quote of the Day:
“We need to remember what’s important in life: friends, waffles, work. Or waffles, friends, work. Doesn’t matter, but work is third.”
– Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation
Bonus gift /advice: