Friday, June 19, 2015

Inside Out [2015]

MPAA (PG) CNS/USCCB (A-II)  ChicagoTribune (3 1/2 Stars) (4 stars)  AVClub (A-)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (M. Zoller Seitz) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

AVClub interview with Director Pete Docter / Producer Jonas Rivera
NPR interview with Director Pete Docter
NPR (J. Hamilton, N. Ulaby) article about the Psychology of "Inside Out"

Leave it to Disney/Pixar, Inside Out [2015] (co-directed and story co-conceived by Pete Docter and Ronaldo del Carmen screenplay by Meg LeFueve, Josh Cooley and Pete Docter) is one of the best conceived, even provocative (yet in a characteristically "nice/gentle way" ;-) children's animated film to come-out in years.

Personifying 5 of the 6 basic emotions in a person's mind -- spritely, cheery yellow Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler); more rotund/droopy blue Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith), bug-eyed purple Fear (voiced by Bill Hader); loud, red, flames-for-hair Anger (voiced by Lewis Black) and eye-rolling, green Disgust (voiced by Mindy Kaling), the sixth basic emotion "Surprise" conflated with Fear  -- the story follows that of a previously happy-go-lucky 11-year old girl named Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) working through the often difficult adjustments of moving with her parents, mom (voiced by Diane Lane) and dad (voiced by Kyle MacLachlan), from her hometown in rural Minnesota to San Francisco because "dad landed a better job" there.  The personified emotions guide Riley from a Star Trek-like "control room" inside her brain.

It's all very interesting and calls to mind both Classical Philosophical (Stoic) and Catholic Theological conceptions of The Passions and even the earlier pagan Greco-Roman conception that people finding themselves in strong emotional states were literally possessed by the Divinity behind such strong emotions: For instance, a person in lust would be seen as being possessed in some way by Aphrodite; a person in a vengeful rage would be seen as possessed in some way by the Furies.  (A fascinating exposition on this early pagan Greco-Roman conception of emotional states can be found in Walter Truett Anderson's book, The Future of the Self (1997) where he argued that conception of an integral "self" is a fairly modern construct and that in pagan Greco-Roman times (for instance, the time of Homer's Iliad) the "self" was conceived, at best as "weak" and that people were often conceived as being possessed by one or another emotion-bearing Greco-Roman God).  It's all something for the adults to contemplate as the little ones enjoy the movie ... ;-).

Indeed, the division of the self in the film into "five basic personified emotions" IMHO does begin to play into those earlier pagan Greco-Roman categories.  HOWEVER, I would note that to its credit the story does does affirm a salutary place for "sadness" -- encouraging one to reach out to others both "in need" (if one finds oneself sad) and "out of empathy" (if one runs into someone who appears to be sad).  Arguably this insight of the film can be interpreted as affirming the Christian Pascal Mystery -- that out of "Death" (radical loss/sadness) can come "New Life" (new joy). 

So, again, even as the kids smile from ear-to-ear watching memories cascade about Riley's brain as color coded marbles -- "you don't want to 'loose your marbles' ;-) -- adults are left with all kinds of "deep thoughts" to contemplate.  GREAT JOB!

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