From the Inside-Out
by Travolta Cooper
Cannes, France – Collaboration. Communication. The idea of operating as one unit has been a core theme in these essays from Cannes. Such a theme, made watching Pixar’s new film Inside Out the most memorable experience I’ve had at the festival. Disney’s Pixar Studios is a studio consisting of several computer animation filmmakers. They’re famously collaborative, all operating as one unit. John Lassater, who’s been called its “Creative Officer,” heads the studio. Mr. Lassater directed Toy Story, the first film unveiled from Pixar in 1995. Since then, there have been two more Toy Story films (making it one of the best trilogies in the history of cinema) produced over a ten-year period and in between several classic titles from Pixar. These titles include Ratouille and The Incredibles, (directed by Brad Bird), Wall-E and Finding Nemo (directed by Andrew Stanton), and Up (directed by Pete Docter).
Pete Docter returns to direct Inside-Out, Pixar’s fifthteenth film, and while it is a bold and somewhat dubious declaration to proclaim this to be Pixar’s best (there are so many jewels in this crown) I’ll go out on a limb and say it anyway. This might be the best Pixar film ever. I’ll go a bit further and say that this might be the best film of 2015. Inside Out is the story of Riley, an eleven-year-old girl who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by the voice (her emotions) in her head. In the case of Inside Out, this is literally the case. These emotions are personified as Joy (voiced Amy Poehler). Joy is the main and lead emotion who aims to keep all things positive.
The story begins with Riley’s mother (voiced by Diane Lane) giving birth to a newborn Riley. As it happens, Joy appears and is naturally there to guide. Joy is quite content to be alone and steer Riley’s life, so she’s a bit bothered when company arrives. This company arrives in the form of Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith), Fear (voiced by Bill Hader) Anger (voiced by Lewis Black) and Disgust (voiced by Mindy Kaling). All five emotions live in ‘Headquarters’ the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise and steer her through everyday life. It is a fascinating and ingenious concept. And the end result is nothing short of astonishing. Watching the picture, it felt like Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze decided to collaborate with Pixar on a story.
One critic told me he got the impression that this is the film Alfred Hitchcock would make if he did an animated movie. Like the best of Pixar films it connects with you on both a cerebral and visceral level. It’s both concrete and abstract. It is entertaining and engaging for both adults and children. It is the highest of art, all disguised as popcorn entertainment. I walked into the screening with conflicting emotions of my own. On one end, I was filled with joy to be at the premiere of a Pixar film, and on the other end saddened by the lack of Caribbean content at the film festival.
In the film, the turning pint happens as Riley faces the reality of her new life in San Francisco. Once this happens, Joy and Sadness embark on a special journey into the outer limits of Riley’s mind. All of this while Fear, Anger and Disgust are left alone in Headquarters to guide. Inside Out on the surface is basically (among many other things) a coming-of-age tale. And this particular one is as universal and human as they come.
Collaboration is the theme that most spoke to me after this first screening. This could be perhaps because of the space I occupied knowing full well that if there will be a Regional Film industry then it will only happen as a collaborative effort. Collaboration and communication is key to our emerging film industry and we all play a role in how she comes-of-age. As with all Pixar films, I’m sure I’ll see something else after another screening (I can’t wait to see it again). By the end of the screening as the credits rolled I was on my feet applauding. And then I looked around to see that the entire audience was also on its feet. It was the longest standing ovation of all the screenings at Cannes.
This is the link to after-screening press conference: http://www.festival-cannes.fr/en/mediaPlayer/15192.html. Travolta appears around the 37:00 min mark.