“Inside Out” or the Case for Sadness

Inside Out.jpg

Ah, what a welcome return to form for Pixar with 2015’s Inside Out. A little over two years ago, I penned this post entitled, The Pixar Peak, where I said:

Pixar’s Peak was with the commercial and critical success of Toy Story 3 and the conclusion of that whole trilogy. The film is the only Pixar film to make over $1 billion and it’s their best Rottentomatoes score since Toy Story 2 in 1999. Moreover, it is their biggest success domestically besides Finding Nemo, when adjusted for inflation. After that, you have the first film in the Pixar library to have a rotten ‘Tomatoes score and to commercially go under $200 million at the Box Office in over a decade with Cars 2.

Well, thank god for Inside Out. Pixar desperately needed this film, which has a 98% on Rottentomatoes and made $356 million at the domestic box office and almost $900 million at the global box office. And believe it or not, when not adjusting for inflation, it’s the second most successful film for Pixar in terms of the box office and the second most successful film for Pixar in terms of critical praise (according to Rottentomatoes).

That’s impressive. And it’s easy to see why because Inside Out is a gorgeously animated film with serious, weighty themes and a subject matter. The short end of it is that Riley, an 11-year-old girl, and her parents move from her home of Minnesota where life was great and hockey was fun, to drab San Francisco where she has no friends and she feels distanced by her family. All the while, the emotions in her head, “joy,” “anger,” “fear” and “disgust” are working feverishly to improve her mood.

However, “joy” didn’t understand the power and necessity of sadness. She relegated sadness to a literal circle where she couldn’t disrupt memories and moods. Over time, she comes to realize the importance of sadness to the overall personality and character of human beings.

In short, sometimes, crying is needed. It’s cathartic.

As A.O. Scott pointed out in his Times review, it’s a play on regression, i.e., forced happiness:

It is also a defense of sorrow, an argument for the necessity of melancholy dressed in the bright colors of entertainment. Our ability to feel sad is what stirs compassion in others and empathy in ourselves. There is no growth without loss, and no art without longing.

So beautifully said and accurate by Scott. “No art without longing.” Damn how true that rings.

Laren Stover, also in the Times, makes a case for melancholy and Inside Out seemed to support her understanding of the term, too:

By comparison it is fine to indulge in the cloudy charms of melancholy: to watch a sad black-and-white movie or to be swept away by the wind making a sound that Truman Capote described as a grass harp. 

Should melancholy descend, you may as well welcome it, wear your finest lounging outfit; give it your finest fainting couch or chaise to lounge in, or that hammock stretched between two elm trees. Let it settle in.

She said she wants moonlight — that in happiness is like the sun, ridiculously bright and impossible to live up to, but the moonlight? A bit more attainable, a bit more able to be lived-in.

And in Inside Out, it’s the moonlight that wins.

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