‘Inside Out’ charms Cannes but shuns film jury

19 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Inside Out might be out of the running at Cannes, but its star-studded cast isn’t phased.

US director Pete Docter (C) jokes as he arrives with actress Marilou Berry (L) and co-director and animation designer Ronaldo Del Carmen for the screening of the film “Inside Out” at the Cannes Film Festival on May 18, 2015 The US animation studio, now part of the Disney empire, on Monday was presenting its latest cartoon feature at the Cannes Film Festival ahead of a June worldwide rollout expected to do big family box-office business.During the end credits of Inside Out, the latest animated feature from Pixar, we are treated to an assortment of peeks inside the head of a host of ancillary characters from the film — a schoolteacher, a bus driver, a burnout cashier at a pizza place, even a dog and a cat — all of whom have their own crew of emotions working to keep their charge in a precarious kind of balance. The film delves into the imagination — literally — by portraying human emotions of Joy, Anger, Disgust and Sadness as distinct characters, who sit at the control panel in the mind “Headquarters” of a young girl, Riley. The two stars were tapped to voice emotions inside a young girl’s head in Pixar’s latest clever project, which premiered for press on Monday at Cannes.

Poehler is the voice of Joy, part of a gestalt that makes up the mind of 11-year-old Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) as she tries to navigate the emotional turmoil of moving to a new city with her parents. Poehler plays Joy, the front-and-center sentiment desperately trying to steer our growing protagonist away from more psychologically troublesome emotions like Disgust (Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), and Anger (Lewis Black).

The English-language version of the picture features the voices of “Parks and Recreation” star Amy Poehler, “Twin Peaks” actor Kyle MacLachlan and the ever-adaptable Hollywood actress Diane Lane. I particularly found its famously tear-jerking sequence, in which we see the life of an old man and his eventually deceased wife compressed into a few minutes, particularly egregious. Although not in the Cannes competition for the Palme d’Or, the official screening slot on the Riviera on Monday gives valuable and global media attention to the movie.

He also took pains to explain the Pixar method of storytelling, in which the filmmakers watch their work in storyboard form every 12 weeks during pre-production, tear it down and begin again. “It’s almost like we get to have nine or 10 cuts of our film even before we start production.” The voice talents also enjoyed the freedom of helping to create their characters, whose lines were recorded before any serious animation began. “I’m not asked to do that many things,” said Kaling, best known as the creator and star of TV’s The Mindy Project. “But they showed me the story, and I started weeping. And while Poehler and Kaling helped give voice to that character’s feelings, they both tapped into their own so much that they found themselves crying on two different occasions during the collaboration. Pixar, founded by George Lucas and financed by late Apple boss Steve Jobs, made a big opening splash with “Toy Story” and went from strength to strength with “Monsters, Inc.”, “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles”. Of course it’s sad to watch a sweet old man lose his sweet old wife; never mind that we’re barely 10 minutes into the film and know nothing about either character. Inside Out may be the first so-called kids’ film to use the phrase “non-objective fragmentation,” in a scene in which parts of Riley’s personality wander into the “abstract thought” region of her brain.

It’s the emotional equivalent of a jump scare in a horror movie, or pinching someone to make them go “ouch.” People just naturally react to some things; that doesn’t mean they’re smart or thoughtful or profound. With Inside Out, Docter — again teamed with Up co-writer Michael Arndt — has switched his focus from the regrets of old age to the sorrows of lost youth, and once again he can’t help but push those sentimentality buttons at every turn. But in recent years, it has been in danger of being overshadowed by Disney Animation Studios, which made the top-grossing animation of all time, “Frozen”. The filmmakers also incorporated the work of psychologist Paul Ekman, a pioneer in the study of emotions and facial expressions, and of his protégé Dacher Kelner. “Emotions have a job,” said producer Jonas Rivera. “I’d never thought of this but there’s a reason you have anger, fear, joy, sadness or disgust … and that really unleashed the writing. Cannes, therefore, is a prestigious fillip for Pixar, and market watchers are seeing if “Inside Out” can succeed in maintaining its profile against the competition it faces — inside and out. “Disney, you know, when they bought Pixar, they were like, ‘OK we paid a lot of money for these guys, we don’t want to break anything.’ And so far, it (the studio) really has remained autonomous.”

In fact, she’s frequently referred to as “our happy girl” by the latter, to the pride of Joy (Amy Poehler), who is the unofficial captain of the U.S.S. That all came out of research.” Still, you don’t need to be a psychologist or a neurologist to experience the film’s highs and lows. “Comedy and drama,” said Poehler, “they live so close together. Riley. (We are to assume this is because happy people have the most initiative.) Things take a turn, however, when Riley’s father relocates the family to San Francisco for a new job, and Riley must leave behind her friends and her school and start a new life. But we also have islands that represent certain bunches of moods, an actual Train of Thought and differently categorised memories in the form of variously coloured spheres.

Before writing, Docter met with psychiatrists, psychologists, and neurologists to better understand emotions and how they work.) While Poehler’s character is the irrepressibly optimistic “Joy” at the movie’s neural command center, the actress revealed that she did get in touch with some other sentiments. And the conceit — that as we age and life throws more complications at us, our remembrance of things past becomes more emotionally complicated — is simple and profound and inventively conveyed. Through some disaster involving a bundle of core memories and some kind of pneumatic tube too abstract to economically explain here, Joy and Sadness get whisked out of headquarters and dropped far away in Long Term Memory — a kind of labyrinthine library of multicolored units of experience — and must make the long journey back while Fear, Anger, and Disgust take the wheel to disastrous effect.

And here’s where Inside Out starts to veer into even more wobbly and often literally abstract territory — which will please fans of Up’s weirder flights of fancy and lose others. The film’s visual highlight comes when – in the style of Daffy’s Duck Amuck – the characters are broken down into abstract versions of themselves. Without spoiling much, I will merely say that Bing Bong is the logical successor to Toy Story’s forgotten, unloved toys, and is clearly put there only to put our own personal Sadnesses into a chokehold. Much of Docter’s intentions in the film are interesting and introspective, but I can’t get behind this sort of weepy mourning of childhood innocence he seems determined to return to time and time again.

Life is full of enough sadness; now we’re supposed to feel guilty about the inanimate and imaginary objects of our childhood? is clearly made from the perspective of a parent, and I can’t hold that against it — Riley’s emotions, especially Joy, are like secondary parents, watching her and rooting for her and playing back her memories with unconditional affection. But I wonder how this film will play for actual children, aka its primary audience, and how much Docter’s wildly abstract, candy-colored visual design will delight vs. confound them. Much of it, I suppose, will look familiar — I still remember imagining jelly bean-like workers living in my stomach when I was very young, which were present in almost unsettling verisimilitude in Riley’s long-term memory. And there are enough clever references to very concrete, real-world experiences (a jingle for a gum commercial that keeps being summoned for no particular reason, the maintenance workers who unsentimentally clear out unused memories like piano lessons and phone numbers) to keep it from flying off the rails. I hope its real, quite sophisticated lesson — that it’s okay to feel things other than happiness sometimes, and that all our emotions help us grow up — comes through all the bouncing marbles and glitter showers and rainbow pony princesses.

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