Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Just some spoilery thoughts on Soul


I can't stop thinking about Soul (as my ranking of PIXAR movies on Letterboxd can attest, it's currently one of my favorite PIXAR movies), so hey, why not spend a dreary December morning jotting down some spoilery thoughts on this picture.

There are numerous examples throughout Soul of this movie finding such creative ways to visually reflect elements of human personalities and psychologies. But perhaps my favorite instance of this phenomenon comes in the film climax, which involves Joe Gardner trying to comfort 22 in her anxiety-ridden form.

As he travels into 22 to try and help her, he encounters a version of himself telling 22 that she wasn't finding the right purpose. His wording here is much more intense than what he actually told her, with Gardner calling 22 an "idiot" in her memories. It was the first time I'd seen a piece of cinema accurately reflect a real psychological experience I've had. Specifically, when I'm really emotionally overwhelmed, I'll remember people saying certain phrases that represent what I took away from a conversation rather than just what they actually said. 

That's such a great detail to pick up on that works on so many levels here. Most notably, it accurately and relatable relays just how much 22 has been hurt by Gardner. Even better, I like how the overwhelming nature of this emotional experience is properly realized through the stylized animation used to render 22's memories of Gardner. Paradoxically, Soul shows that you need the heightened quality of animation to capture certain very real human emotions. 

And now, just a handful of spoilery observations:

* I was initially worried when I saw the trailers for Soul that it was going to be too reminiscent of Inside Out, but that didn't turn out to be a problem at all. Starting Gardner's experiences with worlds beyond the mortal realm in The Great Beyond was a great way to immediately differentiate these two projects. There's an eerie quality to the expansiveness of The Great Beyond that echoes how space is rendered in Claire Denis' High Life rather than any of the visual aesthetics seen in Inside Out. It immediately lets you know that Soul is going for something different than the last Pete Docter PIXAR movie.

* Speaking of other Pete Docter movies, the various cutaway gags in Soul (like the cut to the cat's soul on the stairway to The Great Beyond) feel like spiritual successors to the gag in Docter's Up where Carl imagines himself dangling Russell out of the house. That's not a complaint though, given that the cutaway gags across Up and Soul are pretty darn funny Screenwriters Docter, Kemp Powers and Mike Jones also manage to strike a good balance on just how many of these gags they do in Soul, which ensures they don't become a hindrance to the movie. 

* I actually took a History of Jazz class at my college this past Spring, which meant I understood what the subtitles were walking about when they said "Trilling on the piano".

* Terry being only able to travel on Earth through lines (like cracks in the sidewalk or on the strings of a guitar) was so well-realized and delightful.

* I didn't catch the usual PIXAR eater eggs A113 or the Luxo Jr. ball anywhere.

* That Knicks joke got me laughing way harder than it had any right to.

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