Inside Out Review

I haven’t put out a post in a while, so I’ll stick with a simple and light post for now. I’m not a movie critic by any means, and I generally enjoy any movie I go to see. I’m not the most knowledgeable when it comes to plot lines or character development or hidden meanings, but I think I’m a pretty average consumer and I just want to say why I liked this movie, “Inside Out,” so much.

First of all, this is a really creative movie. If you look at the track record of Pixar, they’re usually pretty creative and they come up with pretty original story ideas. Wall-E, Up, Brave, Cars, Monsters Inc., they’re all pretty original. But I think Inside Out has them beat. The idea of having little people embodying emotions controlling your every move is clever. Their representation of the human mind is really creative and to an extent, it works. Of course, tackling the human mind and making a flawless representation isn’t something that can be done, but for a kids movie, this does a very good job. Everything seems to have purpose and symbolic meaning. The long term memory storage is a giant maze of memories that sometimes fade and are tossed out. Every day new memories are created and sent to long term memory, and others are disposed of. Core memories, or really powerful and influential memories, power Riley’s “personality islands” that represent different aspects of her personality. After watching the movie, it made me wonder what the inside of my head would look like. How many personality islands would I have, and what would they be? What would my core memories be? Who would be the voice for joy, fear, anger, sadness, and disgust in my own head? Really, there is a whole lot of psychology in this movie that is really pretty intriguing, but it’s framed for kids in a genius way I think. I’m really pleased with this concept.

I think next I’ll look quickly at the different emotions, because this is one of the places I think the film could’ve done a tad bit better. You’d think walking into the movie that the emotions would be nothing but their own emotion. Joy would always be happy, anger would always be mad, and sadness would always be sad. But that’s not entirely the case. Joy gets sad and angry many times in the movie. Fear isn’t a complete coward all the time, and disgust doesn’t react to everything with disgust. They’re all happy when they see joy. What I’m getting at is that the emotions were more like people than they were emotions. As far as pure emotion goes, joy shouldn’t be feeling angry or sad, because that is contrary to her nature. If she’s going to be called Joy, she better be nothing but joyful. It’s kind of nitpicky since they were usually pretty true to their characters, but their were some deviations that had me questioning a little bit.

Their was also a lot of interesting interaction between Riley and the world around her. I walked into the theater, or actually drove in because I saw it at a drive in theater, thinking that the emotions were in control and guided her movement. Riley was actually in control and the emotions mainly controlled reactions to different situations. The first spot that comes to mind is at the dinner table being asked what school was like. Joy and sadness aren’t in the control room, so Anger and Fear and Disgust are trying to “be Joy” for Riley, and each of them gets a turn to control Riley’s reaction for a second. It shows to me how quickly people can swap between emotions. One second they’re angry and the next they’re disgusted. Another interesting moment is when sadness touches one of the core memories and turns the memory sad instead of joyful. On more careful consideration, it makes sense because I believe the memory that was turned sad was one of Riley being held up by her hockey friends. What was once a happy memory can be turned sad by being in a different place. She misses her friends back in Minnesota after having moved to San Francisco. That’s an interesting thing to think about. Of course I have happy memories of high school, but now when I think about them I feel kind of sad because I’m going to miss it. It shows that every memory is more than one emotion. We’re layered, and that’s what I’m going to talk about next.

By the end of the movie, Riley has grown up a bit. In the beginning of the movie, there was really only room for one emotion to control anything at a given time on the control panel, which led to really one dimensional interactions and memories. Everything was happy, or sad, or fearful. There was little in between. In the end though, a new control panel is installed so that every emotion can help control Riley. This leads to new kinds of memories, which are multicolored. Joy was yellow, sadness blue, digust green, anger red, and fear purple. But suddenly memories were blue and yellow, or purple and green, or any combination. As Riley grew up, she began to diversify her memories, and no longer was something pure disgust. It could be disgusting and joyful, which creates a more dynamic personality and I think it’s more accurate. Rarely are we feeling a single emotion. I’ll use my example of going to college. On my first day, my “memory ball” is going to be rainbow. I’m very joyful about going to college, sad I’m leaving friends behind, fearful of what I’m going to face, and maybe I’ll be a little disgusted with myself for not doing something before I left, or maybe I’ll be angry because someone didn’t come with me to Utah. We’re a lot more than one emotion at a time, and I’m glad that by the end the movie reflected that.

One other slight issue I took with the movie was the presence of only five emotions. In an acting class, we learned about different theories about the number of emotions a person had. The model we used included eight. Every other emotion was a mixture of different emotions. The eight were karuna (sadness/compassion), raudra (anger/rage), vira (courage), bhayanaka (fear/shame), bibhasta (disgust), hasya (laughter/comedy), sringara (desire), and adbhuta (wonder/awe). Even still, five emotions seems like too few to me. My guess is that they didn’t include more because it would be more chaotic and there would be an issue with character development. Already, disgust was the least developed and joy was the most developed emotion, so having more would create more chaos and clutter and the movie would suffer as a result. I’m still just shocked that there wasn’t a love emotion in her head.

Okay, the last thing I want to address is the movie’s greatest achievement in my opinion. It may contain spoilers so if you haven’t seen it yet and want to keep things secret, don’t read much further. If you don’t care and want to read anyway, fine by me! I love the messages that are sent through this movie, either explicitly or more subtly. I think it’s a really risky move to portray depression on the big screen because it’s such a widespread issue that may raise some flags, especially if it’s portrayed inaccurately. The depression for Riley really starts with the move to San Francisco, but within her head it’s when Joy and Sadness get lost, essentially saying that Riley becomes incapable of expressing happiness or sadness. Her depression is a mix of fear, anger, and disgust. That in itself is really kinda profound. Depression was represented literally by the inability to feel joy or sadness. That says so much. People think that depression is ONLY sadness, but this movie says otherwise. It goes beyond sadness.

Before I finish with that thought, I just want to include some other, unrelated points that the movie makes. It’s very clear in this movie that depression is taken seriously. Many people misunderstand depression as just feeling bad and it’s “all in your head” or it’s not a serious issue. In the movie, once the depression sets in, it becomes the antagonist in the movie. Joy and sadness are dealing with earthquakes and confusion and setbacks at every turn, symbolically pointing out that depression stifles joy and sadness. Not only is it an absence of them, but it also fights them and keeps them from returning. More importantly still is the destruction of personality islands. Riley had five islands: goofiness, family, friends, hockey, and honesty. One falls right after the other into a giant chasm where forgotten memories go. Riley wasn’t Riley anymore. She wasn’t goofy anymore. She lied all the time. Her friends weren’t important to her. Her favorite activity didn’t bring her joy anymore. She became isolated from her family. Quite literally, depression destroyed her from the inside out. She wasn’t herself anymore. I can’t think of a more accurate representation. She lost interest in everything and she wasn’t even the same person anymore. On a separate note, I really thought the chasm with all the forgotten memories was an important thing to consider. There were MOUNTAINS upon mountains of forgotten memories. They were all faded and dissolving by the second. Joy looked into them and saw memories she loved and never forgot, but Riley had forgotten them. The reason I think this is important is because we’re all the same. We never stop making memories, and we’re forgetting things daily. Things that once seemed important are forgotten. And you know what? That’s okay. We have to cherish the memories we do have, and we’re always going to be losing other memories. Every memory may seem important, but if we get hooked on all the memories we’re losing, we’ll never be able to make new ones. We have to let some go in order to move ahead. And even though it’s scary and unknown, we have to do it. The past is usually comforting and cherished, but we can’t stay there. I just love that idea.

Back to the original point. Depression extends so far beyond sadness. It destroys personalities. My favorite message comes at the end when Joy and Sadness get back to the control room. Everyone thought that joy needed to get back so that Riley could be happy again. But in the end, it’s Sadness that helps Riley the most. When the other emotions step back and let Sadness express herself through Riley, only then does Riley overcome her depression. In the end, Sadness was the hero all along. All throughout the movie, Joy was keeping sadness away from the controls. She even drew a little circle for Sadness to stand in and not come out of. Sadness was never allowed to touch anything. She became isolated and thought she wasn’t important or necessary. She thought all she brought was pain and trouble, and everyone told her not to touch anything. When sadness “messed things up” by taking control while everyone else’s face was turned, she ended up contaminating a core memory and creating the first core memory that wasn’t joy. Riley had a new core memory, and it was sad. Joy freaked out and wanted that memory gone, but Sadness wanted to be represented and that’s what started the trouble. So often we do this to ourselves. We keep sadness away and say its bad to be sad, and we think that sadness is painful and destructive and we wish we could live without it. We never want to feel sad, and when we do, we feel ashamed and we’re laughed at. How many times have you been shamed in any degree, or shamed someone else, for crying or feeling sad? I for one have experienced a lot of it, and I do the same thing. I bottle up my sadness, keep it away, and pretend it isn’t there. That’s ultimately the source of the pain and trouble. We need to not bottle up our emotions like that. Whenever we try to bottle, we get one step closer to exploding. And in the movie, Sadness saved Riley! Riley was finally able to express her feelings in a way no other emotion could’ve. The movie identifies Sadness as something to be valued. She’s important and a problem solver, not a problem causer. It’s only when she isn’t allowed to do anything that things go wrong. So express your sadness! It’s important that you do, and it’s not something to feel bad about. It’s actually a good thing.

I really love this movie, and Amy Poehler is freaking hilarious. It’s probably in my top three favorite Pixar movies and I love the messages it sends. It’s creative, mostly accurate, and I just think it’s a great movie for kids and adults and everyone else. Everyone can get something from this, which makes it a fantastic movie. I give the movie a solid A+. Go out and watch the movie if you haven’t, or let me know what you think about the movie if you have. Thanks for reading!


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