Cinema review: Pixar's latest masterpiece... Inside Out
Inside Out, Cert: G
Reviewed this week are Inside Out, You're Ugly Too, Best of Enemies, Eden and The Legend of Barney Thompson.
Were we to ever hand over the responsibility of educating our children to a studio, Pixar would be it. This latest masterpiece from the makers of Toy Story, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles is the kind of emotionally astute and conceptually ingenious fare that John Lasseter's gang seem to churn out at will.
In reality, Inside Out has taken writer-director Pete Docter five years to craft, such is the painstaking attention to detail and technical flourish synonymous with Pixar. The result is one of the year's best offerings and a highlight in an already enviable back-catalogue.
The focus of such illuminatory prowess this time is the emotions that battle it out at the control panel of our minds. Eleven-year-old Riley is uprooted from her childhood home when her father takes on work in the city. Within her, Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) steer the ship, with Joy in the position of helmsman. But the new surroundings awaken something in Riley, and Joy and Sadness end up getting stranded in the maze of Riley's mind. The heat is on to get back to the control room to restore equilibrium.
Prepare to have your own mind gently expanded by this gorgeous, hilarious and often moving journey through the emotional gestalt by a studio that pushes buttons like few others (try watching Up's opening sequence without a sniffle). And for your own kids, this is a subtle and tender way to introduce the confusing but necessary emotional evolution of pre-puberty. Exceptional.
You're Ugly Too
It is never quite clear why Stacey's mother has died. What is clear is that the 11-year-old can now either go into care or make a life with her uncle Will (Aidan Gillen) who has been let out of prison six months early under strict bail conditions. The pair head to a mobile home in the Midlands where they attempt to get to know each other and find a way to live.
Outwardly full of bravado, Stacey (Lauren Kinsella) has internalised her trauma and suffers from narcolepsy. This means she cannot attend school, so uncle and niece find themselves with even more together time than planned, time made more fractious because Will refuses to tell his niece why he went to jail. He is also battling his own demons. On their first night there's a knock at the door, a Belgian neighbour, Emilie, (Erika Sainte) is seeking refuge from her husband's angry friends. It's an encounter that leads to a friendship, questions and an odd relationship with Emilie's husband, Tibor (George Pistereanu).
Mark Noonan's debut as writer and director uses some contrived plot mechanisms, the genesis of the relationship with Emilie for instance is not convincing. However this is mostly character-driven and the main characters and script are good enough to outshine the plot weaknesses. The relationship between Will and Stacey is realistic and draws you in. Often funny, it manages to be moving without ever being mawkish, Gillen and Kinsella are both excellent and the ending is realistic. The film looks great too. Sweet in the best sense, it's one for fans of human nature rather than action.
Best of Enemies
When ABC hatched the idea to hold a televised debate alongside its coverage of the 1968 Democratic and Republican national conventions, it was at that time very much the "also-ran" of US TV stations. All that was to change by the very virtue of the two individuals miked-up in the studio and primed to go at one another on the battlefield of political polemic - William F Buckley Jr and Gore Vidal.
It was perfect. Vidal was a box-office novelist who was ahead of his time with his opinions on sexual politics and the war-waging, money-grubbing scourge of the Right. Buckley, meanwhile, was the Right's poster boy, an old-money conservative and dyed-in-the-wool capitalist with a shameless smile. So venomous was the enmity and suspicion with which each regarded the other that plonking the pair in chairs beside one another was all ABC needed to do to instigate television gold. Sparks of the most eloquent and acerbic kind flew without much prompting, with no quarter given by either in their goal to destroy the other by way of bloody-minded, sharp-tongued debate.
Film-makers Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville do excellent work here in re-establishing the characters of both these mighty intellectual combatants for a new generation. While doing so, they punctuate this rollicking 84 minutes with the footage of those ABC episodes and all the delicious verbal cuts, thrusts and killer blows that they produced ("don't point your tongue at me, put it back in your cheek where it belongs," Vidal purrs at one point).
It all comes to a head when one famously made the other lose the rag on live television. This serves as a climax of sorts to this gripping title bout, but Best Of Enemies succeeds so wholly by looking beyond the televisual pantomime, at both the demise of US political TV coverage and the scars of bitterness the debates left on both men's lives right up to their deaths.
Of course, the other great loss hinted at in this documentary is the English language itself, which in the hands of these master exponents is a muscular, acrobatic phenomenon far removed from today's lexicon of emojis and abbreviated shrugs.
Now showing at IFI
Daft Punk invoked a temporary climactic change in house music by making songs that even the hairiest of rockers would tap their feet to. No one could therefore complain that the era ushered in by the Parisian duo forms the backdrop to this uber-hip indie drama about that scene and an individual trying to emulate Daft Punk's success to the point of a mid-thirties burn-out.
While the thematic colours - unrealised potential, drug abuse, dance culture - may be in order in Mia Hansen-Love's film, Eden has some compositional problems that stymie momentum and render its super-cool clothing as merely disengaged and meandering.
It's engaging for a while. Felix de Givry is nicely unassuming as Paul, our bright-eyed protagonist whom we tag along with over a couple of decades. At an early nineties rave, he becomes seduced by the alternative world offered by club culture, its music and its purveyors. Spurred on by the reaction Daft Punk's breakthrough hit Da Funk gets one night, he builds his career as a DJ and producer into something that allows him to travel and do sets on both sides of the Atlantic. Relationships come and go (among them with characters played by Greta Gerwig and Golshifteh Farahani) and the obligatory drug use associated with the sector starts to become habitual.
Hansen-Love takes over two hours to tell the story co-written by and based on her brother Sven's experiences. This would be less an issue had the pace as much rhythm and umpf as the super soundtrack. The tacky visual flourishes (an animated bird, Gerwig's naff talking-head shot) do it no favours either.
And yet there is a natural, understated tone throughout Eden that is agreeable, the kind that lets a story tell itself without forcing things.
The Legend of Barney Thomson
Barney Thomson (Robert Carlyle) is a meek barber in Glasgow for whom nothing seems to go right. His standing in the barber shop is slipping and he is ever under the cosh of his devil-may-care mother (a heavily made-up Emma Thompson). Facing into the autumn of his life with no plan B, he is told one day that his position is under threat, and a mixture of desperation and bad luck sees him with blood on his hands.
He spots an opportunity in the activities of a serial killer already at large in Glasgow, and sets about trying to cover up the crime by attributing it to this more eminent slasher. This, however, is the land of the black-comedy genre film and when he involves his mother in his attempt to clean up the mess, the macabre frolics must intensify cartoonishly.
There is much to commend Carlyle with on this directorial debut from one of Scotland's finest actors. He and cinematographer Fabian Wagner shoot with a smooth, musty-aired palette, giving these slick compositions a memorable edge. Ray Winstone and Ashley Jensen throb as duelling potty-mouthed detectives trying to out-do one another, and Carlyle, although spending much of the time wincing with panic, remains a likeable screen presence.
Be warned, however, that the material (based on a Douglas Lindsay novel) is overpoweringly silly at times and very light on restraint by the time of the finale. Not for everyone.
Sunday Indo Living