A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.


September 12, 2011


Oh, Pixar. How you love to make me cry.

I suppose there are plenty of movies about irascible and lonely old men, but most of them don’t go to such lengths to explain how he became so lonely. The opening of this movie shows our hero Karl as a young boy and how he meets his wife to be. Then – mostly in simple pantomime with a brilliantly simple but touching score – it shows highlights of their entire life together. It shows their marriage, their plans to adventure abroad often foiled by the usual events of real life, their inability to have children. Eventually they grow old together, never having been able to travel abroad as they had wished in their youth, and when Ellie dies it leaves Karl all by himself in the house they lived their entire lives in.

It’s one of the most heart-rendingly touching scenes ever committed to film, and it’s the opening to a children’s movie. This starting sequence is the reason that I now do not go to see a Pixar film in the theater without tissues in my pocket (a policy I was glad of when we went to Toys Story 3.)

You need this scene here, too, to make Karl a sympathetic character. As an old man he’s bitter and angry. He’s being pressured by a sleazy real estate developer to sell his house so it can be demolished to make way for a new high-rise building, and when it seems like he’s going to lose the home he instead opts to strap thousands of balloons to it and float it to South America. His behaviors and attitude would seem irrational and incomprehensible if you didn’t know already about Ellie and their life together.

Of course this movie is no all poignancy and meditations on lost opportunities and lost loves. It is, after all, a children’s animated movie. It features a disarmingly optimistic foil for Karl in his stowaway sidekick the young scout Russell. There’s also a loony cartoon bird and lots of talking dogs (given voices by a translator box on their collars. Indeed the movie’s very tenderness makes these more comedic elements that much more precious.

As is so often the case this movie wonderfully illustrates the brilliance of the geniuses at Pixar. Pete Docter understands how to use his medium to get inside his viewers. This is effective storytelling, plain and simple. I feel drained after watching it because it’s so emotionally taxing (and how many kid’s movies can I say that about) but it’s a good kind of emotional trip. Validating and affirming.

We have been somewhat avoiding watching this movie for a while now because I knew how taxing it would be. Although we wept through most of the film I have to say that in the end I’m delighted to have this in our collection. My one regret is that after having seen it twice in the theater in 3-D I have been unable to get it in 3-D Blu-Ray. Not that the 3-D effects are essential to watching the movie – it just ads a little bit to the experience that I miss now.

September 12, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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