June 29, 2015
Family Film Blogging: Inside Out
Posted by Christine Hurt

I'm rarely in on anything cool, but two weeks ago, my seven year-old and I stumbled upon a "sneak preview" of Disney/Pixar's Inside Out, with commentary.  We even got lanyards.  My former colleague and movie friend Kenworthey Bilz joined us, so we had an actual psychologist with us.  We all loved it.

I had seen the trailer, and quite frankly, I didn't really understand what the movie was about.  Now, I think I have it.  Riley, an eleven year-old girl, moves with her parents from Minnesota to San Francisco.  Riley's emotions, personality, thoughts, and behaviors are guided by five main characters in her brain:  Joy, Disgust, Anger, Fear and Sadness.  As one would hope, Joy is in control.  After the move, however, Sadness keeps winding up front and center, turning once happy memories into sad ones.  (It took me a long time to see this as reflecting inevitable reality:  happy memories with loved ones become tinged with sadness once those loved ones are gone or those times have passed.)  Joy tries everything she can to keep Sadness out of the picture, but that makes things worse.  Ultimately, Joy and Sadness will have to leave "headquarters" to retrieve Riley's "core memories" that become lost in the shuffle.  These core memories help support Riley's "islands of personality":  family, friendship, goofiness, hockey and honesty.  One by one, as Joy and Sadness get sidetracked on their adventure into "long-term memory" and Fear, Anger and Disgust are left at the controls, these islands begin to crumble.  As our tween begins to shut out friends and family because of feelings about the move, she makes poor decisions.  In the end, Anger convinces the other two emotions and implant an idea into Riley's consciousness that will prove disastrous unless Joy can regain the controls.

The beginning of the movie feels like any other animated feature, but halfway through you realize that this is no silly kids' movie.  This is Pixar.  And Pixar can make grown-ups cry like no other film company.  Toy Story 3?  Up?  Yep, you're in for it again.  Unless you were asleep during Toy Story 2 and 3, you've realized by now that the grown-ups at Pixar are parents, and they understand the pain of parenthood better than anyone.  When Riley's islands of personality start slipping away, I almost lost it.  If you've ever watched an eleven year-old girl (or 12, or 13, or 14) disappear, then you know what I'm talking about.  Goofiness island doesn't come back.  But, other islands take its place, and Riley and her parents make more core memories.  Family island is rebuilt, even bigger and better.  But goofiness island doesn't come back.

Joy is also the quintessential helicopter parent.  She is running around, doing somersaults, bending over backwards trying to make sure that Riley feels nothing but Joy/joy.  What we learn from the movie is that Sadness is also very important.  Sadness also keeps us from making poor decisions.

Like Up, this is a movie that we probably won't see over and over again but really do appreciate for its thoughtfulness and intelligence.  But I do want to see it with my daughter.

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