“Inside Out” charms Cannes but shuns film jury

20 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Inside Out’: Cannes Review.

The clip focuses on Disgust, who makes sure that Riley doesn’t get poisoned, and Anger…who we’ve seen get quite passionate in other trailers released to date. “Inside Out” turned the Cannes festival on its head on Monday (May 18) as the film about what goes on inside a young girl’s mind drew cheers from audiences.The reception to the film after its premiere has been so good that some have wondered whether it should have been included in the Palme d’Or competition at the event.

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.A ‘60s avant-garde head trip repackaged as a big slice of mainstream entertainment, Inside Out could easily have been titled Childhood’s End, as it ingeniously personifies the furiously erupting sensations associated with the onset of adolescence as a bunch of emotionally competitive cartoon characters. Directed by Pete Docter and with Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling voicing characters, the film is a kind of Pixar-style Inception where the story unfolds both in reality and in the mind.

This latest conceptually out-there creation from Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc.; Up) serves up some abstractions and flights of deconstructive fancy that will most likely go over the heads of viewers with ages in the single digits. Ahead of an important screening for his bosses at Pixar Animation about two years ago, the director was wrestling with a thorny story problem on his next film, “Inside Out.” “This one moment is funny, but I don’t know what the movie as a whole is saying,” Docter recalled thinking to himself as he walked the hills near his home in Piedmont, Calif. “How did things get so far and we still don’t have anything? The ingenious film by the Pixar studio which brought the world “Toy Story” almost 20 years ago, and more recently “Up”, shows characters personifying basic human emotions of Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness acting out their roles in the head of a young girl named Riley.

Director Pete Docter (who also made the Pixar hits Up and Monsters, Inc) said the anthropomorphic approach came from watching his own 11-year-old daughter Elizabeth and wondering what was going on inside her head. “Emotions are not really little people running around in your head — I hope that doesn’t spoil anything for anybody. But this adventurous outing manages the great Pixar trick of operating on two levels — captivating fun for kids, disarming smarts for adults — that sets the studio apart. Pixar delayed its 2014 planned release Good Dinosaur, making Inside Out the Disney studio’s first new film since 2013’s Monsters University and its first non-sequel since 2012’s Brave. I’m gonna get fired.” It is likelier that Pixar would fire Luxo Jr., its desk lamp mascot, than Docter, a beloved figure at the studio who is known for bringing emotional depth and a childlike wonder to his films. But that is quickly followed by cries provoked by blue-hued Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling), which makes her fling her broccoli from her high chair.

Deadline called the film “mind blowing” and is already predicting nominations for best animated film and possibly best film at next year’s Academy Awards. 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. Although the outward physical story of the script by Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley traces the difficult adjustment suffered by tomboyish 11-year-old hockey player Riley when she’s uprooted by her parents from an idyllic Minnesota life to an unfriendly San Francisco, the real setting is inside the girl’s head.

Docter’s last feature, the Oscar-winning 2009 adventure tale “Up,” contained both a moving, wordless montage about infertility and death and a talking, squirrel-obsessed golden retriever named Dug. Much of what happens inside Riley’s head, where memories take the shape of luminescent spheres the size of bowling balls, looks like a giant pinball arcade game. 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.

It’s a highly combustible place, a control room staffed by the buoyant, blue-haired Joy; red, top-blowing Anger; purplish, equivocating Fear; green, eye-rolling Disgust and squat, all-blue Sadness. Facets of Riley’s personality, including her relations with her mother and father, her interactions with friends, or her love for playing ice hockey, resemble amusement park attractions – perhaps to feature someday at a Disney World near you. 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.

The mind, as we know, is a hectic place with all sorts of things bouncing around in it, and Docter and his team have visualized it in very antiseptic, almost ’60s TV Star Trek fashion, as a room centered around a control panel and lined with shelves and tubes where memories and thoughts are stored. Joy has always held sway in Riley’s heretofore happy life; but now, faced with a depressing new home, an unfamiliar school, no friends and the loss of her old hockey team, Sadness, with assists from the others, is definitely ascendant. The story line asks audiences to accomplish the psychologically sophisticated task of watching our own minds — a reviewer at Cannes called “Inside Out” “one the most conceptually trippy films ever made as a PG-rated popcorn picture.” If critics felt Pixar has been playing it safe with its recent spate of kid-friendly sequels, they’re not likely to feel that way now.

It all flashes by very quickly, but at night control passes over to the long-term memory bank (which is hilariously seen at one point being divested of such content as piano lessons and the names of U.S. presidents), and there is a literal train of thought. 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. Lanky, wide-eyed and sincere, Docter, 46, carries himself more like a kid with particularly good manners than a grown-up — this temperament works well at Pixar, a spiritually youthful company that was celebrating Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day and hosting a chocolate festival. “She would be at home and be tap dancing and doing all that goofy stuff, and we first heard of it through her teacher, who’d say, ‘Elie’s a quiet child,’ ” Docter said. “We’d say, ‘Really?’ She suddenly became aware of judgment and where do I fit in and where is my social circle. 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.” As it is, Joy and Sadness take a trip down the rabbit hole of Riley’s fraying psyche, which leads into very foreign and internalized territory as far as mainstream animation is concerned.

Her emotions, led by Joy, a yellow sprite voiced by an exuberant and occasionally manic Amy Poehler, live in relative harmony, steering her together through childhood’s ups and downs like the crew of the Starship Enterprise. Externally, Riley is slipping fast, withdrawing from her solicitous and caring parents, rebelling against her new surroundings, becoming sullen and, for the first time in her life, is genuinely depressed, all of which leads her to plot running away from home. The outcasts endure a perilous journey during which the physical representations of Riley’s idyllic childhood all come toppling down and the illusions of innocence, essentially represented by a kid-friendly elephant (with odd accoutrements from other critters), must be left behind. Although this journey through the psychic and emotional underworld could have been a lot more harrowing, hellish and Bosch-like than it is, it will still probably appear perilous enough to real kids younger than Riley, who have never suffered through a crisis before.

What the film charts, then, in its highly original and disarmingly physicalized way, is the competition among the oppositional aspects of human nature. In this respect, Joy is the protagonist and heroine, but the script doesn’t pretend that any of the other emotions couldn’t take over and lead one to the wrong destination. It’s an audacious concept, and Docter’s imagination, along with those of his numerous collaborators, is adventurous and genially daft enough to put it over.

He helped develop the story and characters for the studio’s first feature, “Toy Story,” before directing his own first feature, the Oscar-nominated “Monsters Inc.,” in 2001 and contributing to the Oscar-nominated screenplay for “WALL-E” in 2008. “[Directing] was not natural to me,” Docter said. “If I rewind back to ‘Monsters,’ I still do not know whose idea it was to let me direct. And there are unexpected surges of emotion in the late-going, as Riley’s equilibrium is re-established and the primacy of the parent-child bond is reaffirmed. That was weird. ‘Cause I’m not a natural alpha male leader type.” “Pete doesn’t pound the table,” Rivera said. “People crave truth and believability in this business, even when we’re making fake things. All the other voice actors blend in nicely without being too eccentric — Bill Hader portrays Fear, Mindy Kaling is Disgust, Lewis Black is Anger and Phyllis Smith is the unassertive but undeniable Sadness. In a cheeky move on the part of Bay Area-based Pixar, San Francisco is, for once, portrayed in a negative light (the family’s new home is located on a cramped, dingy downtown street).

That’s when Docter had the creative epiphany that Sadness, a character he had undervalued, was, in fact, the key to the story. “In modern day U.S., we associate sadness with negativity,” Docter said. “We try to avoid it, we even self-medicate. I realized that Joy needed to let Sadness forward.” “We had to go to John and tell him, even though this is a big no-no, that we’re not gonna have a screening,” Docter said. “We’re gonna pitch what we’re gonna do. That was kind of scary, I’m standing in front of you waving my arms instead of showing you all the homework with the hope that you understand why we’re doing this.” The next hurdle was screening for kids. Docter, who also has an 18-year-old son, said he let go of an early worry about children understanding the film when kids at test screenings were explaining the premise to their parents. “Kids get it quicker than adults do,” Docter said. “That’s really the first language kids learn.

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