tek's rating:

Inside Out (PG)
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Caution: spoilers!

So, this came out in June 2015, but I didn't see it til July 2016 (which for me, is remarkably soon). It was preceded in theaters by an unrelated Pixar short called Lava. The DVD and Blu-ray include that, as well as a short film that is based on this movie, called Riley's First Date? Anyway, the movie is about the personifications of a young girl's emotions: Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Sadness, Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). The concept of personifying the inner workings of someone's mind isn't entirely original (the concept reminds me of the early 90s show Herman's Head, of which I saw- and remember- very little, and I don't think I particularly cared for). But "Inside Out" handles the concept rather brilliantly, particularly because psychologists were consulted for the film's development. (Incidentally, I watched it with some of my cousins on the Fourth of July. I wasn't sure beforehand whether I was up for it, because it had been a long day around a ton of people, not all of whom I knew. So my anxiety was high. But then I thought it'd be meta to watch a movie about emotions while feeling such anxiety, and I'm glad I did.)

The story begins with a baby girl named Riley Andersen. Soon after her birth, her first emotion, Joy, comes into being inside her head. The other four emotions soon appear, as well, but throughout Riley's childhood, Joy takes the lead role in steering her development. The others usually go along with this, apparently because they all want Riley to be happy as much as Joy does, even if it means subverting their own natural instincts. The one most deeply affected by this is Sadness, whom Joy is constantly preventing from doing anything that might make Riley sad. But then, when Riley is eleven years old, she and her parents move from Minnesota to San Francisco. Riley isn't happy about this, but she tries to make the best of it. Unfortunately, on her first day at her new school, she has an experience that becomes her first sad core memory. (She has countless other memories, which appear in the form of glowing orbs of different colors, matching the colors of the personified emotions themselves. Some of Riley's memories are sad, but until now, all of her most important formative memories- her "core memories"- have been happy.) What's worse, Sadness accidentally begins changing some of her happy memories into sad ones, which makes Joy more desperate than ever to keep Sadness from doing anything that might negatively affect Riley.

At one point, the core memories get knocked loose from where they're stored in the control center of Riley's mind, and in trying to replace them, Joy, Sadness, and the core memories all get sucked through a pneumatic tube and transported to the long term memory storage center of Riley's mind. The two emotions are desperate to find a way back to the control center so they can replace the core memories, but they face many obstacles on their journey. They're soon joined by a cat/elephant/dolphin/cotton candy hybrid named Bing Bong (Richard Kind), who was Riley's imaginary friend when she was younger. His attempts to help Joy and Sadness turn out to be both helpful and detrimental to their journey, but he means well. Meanwhile, back in the control center, Anger, Fear, and Disgust try to run things without Joy's leadership. They want to do what Joy would do, but since it's not in their natures, their efforts don't turn out as they intend. This leads to Riley's becoming progressively more unstable. Mostly this means occasional bursts of anger, but eventually she just sort of shuts down, emotionally. (It made me start to think she might need therapy and possibly even medication. Which in turn made me think it would be interesting if the movie took a turn along the lines of Osmosis Jones, which I haven't seen. But I think it could be neat to see personified emotions interacting with a personified antidepressant pill, or something. I also thought it was neat that, when I started writing my review, I found that Wikipedia listed both "Herman's Head" and "Osmosis Jones" in the "see also" heading, along with a few things I've never heard of. But anyway, the movie never goes in that direction, and it's probably just as well.) Eventually, Riley decides to run away, and take a bus back to Minnesota. Which makes it more urgent for Joy and Sadness to get back to the control center and restore the core memories.

Well, there are just so many details I've left out, but I will say the story is full of incredibly inventive representations of the mind's inner workings, particularly imagination and dreams. Of course there's ultimately a happy ending, but the most interesting part of that is how Joy's journey teaches her the importance of allowing Sadness to do her job. Because human emotions and memories are complicated, and needn't be just one thing or another. Learning to accept such complications is part of growing up, a necessary part of a person's development. Anyway, the movie has lots of feels (and how could it not?) There's humor, and drama, and... everything. I definitely had at least a couple of "aha" moments, while watching it. Of course I couldn't help but compare Riley's feelings to my own experience with depression and whatnot, which throughout the movie made the story more relatable to me, for both good and ill. Certainly it could be quite painful at times, but also rather cathartic. Also, for part of the movie, I suspected Sadness knew exactly what she was doing, and was secretly plotting a takeover. Because I felt like that's sort of what must have happened in my own brain, at some point in the distant past. (It would explain a lot.) But... she wasn't. And I'm glad of that. Anyway, I loved the movie, and I just hope someday my own emotions get their shit together. And I hope I'm not forgetting anything else that I wanted to say about the movie. Oh yeah, at one point I said to my cousins, "This would have made a great episode of Community."

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