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

20 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Inside Out': Cannes Review.

CANNES, France — The newest film from Pixar, Inside Out, screened out of competition at the Cannes film festival, which means it isn’t eligible for any prizes. 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.

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. But its star Amy Poehler doesn’t think that should stand in its way. “It’s not up for the Palme d’Or, but it could still win, right?” she asked with a grin after the first festival screening of the film. 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. 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. 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. 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. The other feelings in her head are Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). “We wanted to create a movie about something that everyone in the audience knows about but had never seen before,” executive producer John Lasseter said of the film’s unusual concept. 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.

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. 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. 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. 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. They weren’t too scared off by that and let me continue working with them.” “I basically just do one character,” said Poehler, whose role on TV’s Parks and Recreation is similarly perky. “But it’s nice to go to work and your job is to tell everyone that everything’s going great.” Still, she remembered a day when co-director Pete Docter said that they were going to be crying all day. “I said ‘Yes!’ ” she recalled, pumping her fist and looking at the filmmakers: “And then I gave you guys $350.” Docter actually trotted out the hoary phrase that Inside Out is a film the whole family can enjoy, but it’s a point well made.

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. 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.

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. 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. 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.” 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. 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.

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. 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. 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).

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