Saturday, March 13, 2021

Best of 2020 #4: Soul

The similarities to The 40 Year Old Version were really startling. Both were about 40-something failed NYC artists, teaching frustratingly talentless public school students while still trying to get their belated big break. In both cases, they do get that big break against all odds, and find it disappointing, then wonder what it’s all about. I’m know I’m not supposed to prefer the version co-written and co-directed by a white person, but alas I do. This movie was both thoughtful and a delight.

Storyteller’s Rulebook: Upset the Expectations that Carry Over from Other Movies

This movie’s complex cosmology is similar to both Inside Out and Coco, neither of which I liked very much. One reason I disliked those movies is that I thought they were too bleak, so I didn’t trust this one. In fact, at the end, when he’s given the chance to go be alive again or not, I thought, “Wait, crap, this is Pixar, is he going to just choose to stay dead, because that’s how morbid these things have gotten?” I was delighted when he didn’t! After the “kids should accept depression” movie, and the “kids should accept death” movie, we finally got a “adults should refuse to accept depression or death” movie, and it was very gratifying.


Dale Glaser said...

Sadness. The character's name is Sadness, not Depression. The message of Inside Out was that children (and everyone) should expect, accept and understand that sadness is part of being alive and human. We live in a relentless "good vibes only" moment in history and it's important to acknowledge that so-called "negative" emotions are real, normal, and ultimately useful in processing life experiences in a healthy way.

Depression is a mental disorder. Everyone feels depressed sometimes but capital-D Depression only afflicts some people and makes life difficult and sometimes unbearable. Nobody should just accept depression, anyone suffering from it should get help, which might be therapy, or might be drugs, or might be any number of other things. Nobody should be expected to just surrender to an illness that robs them of happiness and purpose.

If you didn't like Inside Out, cool, you didn't like it, but it's weird that you're calling it bleak and putting words in its mouth along the lines of "depression is inevitable". I would argue it's almost the opposite - I think sometimes people can get into a depression because they are assaulted with external messages that happiness is a state of mind you can always control and summon up and there are no excuses for not being happy all the time, and then they feel sad and wonder what's wrong with themselves, which becomes a vicious cycle. Yeah Inside Out is all candy-colored and oversimplified but it's basically pro-mental health, not a suggestion to give up and give in to mental illness.

Matt Bird said...

I see what you're saying, I know a lot of people like that movie a lot, but the movie didn't work for me personally because she seems really sad throughout, so the idea that she needed to accept sadness at the end made me say, "I don't get it, hasn't she been sad this whole time?" I guess the idea is that she's been numb, not sad, and she'd feel better if she let herself feel sad for a while? Ultimately, the whole movie was just way too much of a bummer for me.

Since posting this I saw that, yes, they intended for Joe to accept death until late in the process: https://www.slashfilm.com/pixars-soul-alternate-endings/

Matt Bird said...

By the way, there is something that is germane to this discussion that I'm not telling you. I will tell you in a few days.

Nat said...

I was wondering if you'd talk about Soul. I liked it a lot, but it misfired one of your rules: never give a character's backstory in the same scene where they're introduced. We get Joe's "jazz club with his dad" flashback in the very first scene of the movie, and it seems to add nothing--there's no irony--he just really loves jazz. Maybe there was stuff with his dad that got cut, but I compare it to the way they handle the Lisa story--just enough tiny hints peppered in that we know exactly what happened and what it means--and the other backstory feels so clunky by comparison.

Nat said...

Couldn't agree more about Joe coming back to life, though.