So my beautiful wife and I had a date night last night and went to go see Inside Out.
I know, I know, that movie’s been out for like six weeks now and everyone and their mother have already seen it. But it hadn’t come out yet last time we went, and we’d both heard good things, so we thought that it sounded like the best choice.
And you know what? I still think it was. I’m man enough to admit that I cried no less than four times in the film, (more on that later) and it was great.
But Caleb, you ask, why would I want to go see a movie that might make me cry?
It might not. My sister-in-law saw it with friends a couple of weeks ago and she didn’t cry. In fact, when talking with her about it this morning, she thought the movie dragged and she was thoroughly disappointed. I was quite shocked at her reaction and have been pondering about it since.
I reviewed everything I know about plot techniques, foreshadowing, try/fail cycles, yes, but/no, and, character development and parallel growth arcs, and couldn’t fault the film. Okay, so getting out of the pit was a little obviously try/fail cycle, but it served such a huge purpose: pinch 2, the loss of the mentor character and further raising of the stakes. Short side quests were pertinent to the main plot, and each plot turn, whether taking us closer or further away from our goal, heightened the tension.
Everything worked so brilliantly. So what was the problem? Why didn’t she get as enveloped and touched by the film as I did?
Expectations. The answer is expectations.
You see, when I was still a teenager, I too was often severely disappointed by films that I thought would be amazing, especially movie-versions of books that I loved. It wasn’t until I realised that the whole problem with my enjoyment lay with me and my expectations that I was able to begin to change my mindset, and honestly, it started with Twilight.
Just as I’m man enough to cry when my heartstrings are touched, I was man enough to enjoy the Twilight series as a teenager. (It was late teenagehood, I’m 26 now.) I knew personally what unrequited teenage love and an almost obsessive compulsion with the one that I loved felt like, and so I could completely relate. But I been burned so much by the Harry Potter films. How could I possibly ever enjoy the Twilight film when I knew it was being done on a tiny budget with actors I didn’t particularly like and a director with a somewhat lousy track record?
I considered all of those factors before I went in. I lowered my expectations severely. I went in expecting a poor homemade mockery of the book that had touched something within me, and you know what? I really enjoyed it.
In fact, compared to what I’d been expecting, I would even go so far as to say that I loved it.
That altering of one’s expectations can make all the difference between a wonderful filmic experience and a lousy one. Why do you think film critics often get so harsh with films that are meant to be just dumb fun, like Pixels? Because, jaded by their understanding of common film-making and plot techniques, they have certain expectations, and often one of those expectations is to somehow be surprised.
A little contradictory, no?
So much in the world could be better if we all altered our expectations. There’s a reason some of the happiest people in the world are the poorest. Because they view everything life gives them as a blessing and not some deserved right. Thinking you deserve anything in life is the surest way to be disappointed.
And speaking of disappointment, I want to get back to Inside Out, the central messages contained therein, why I cried and how it relates.
I’ve never been a crier, my whole life. Ever since this one time in sixth grade when I cried in front of the whole class and realised that it was a horribly embarrassing experience. From that time until I got engaged about two years ago, I can think of maybe a handful of times that I cried. It was definitely less than once a year for those thirteen years.
Now being married, I think I cry more than I ever have before, except perhaps for being a little baby. The reason for this is the love and trust and comfort and connection I have found in my relationship with my wife. We’ve both seen a lot of pain in our lives, and we fill an emotional void within each other. We can each be the pillar the other relies on as we let ourselves feel those pains.
And I think this huge reason, that I’ve only recently gotten to a place in my life in which I’m able to cry about things that hurt or are beautiful or powerful, was one of the reasons Inside Out moved me so deeply. The central message of, it’s okay to feel sad sometimes, it’s okay to cry, it’s okay that things are hard, and you’re allowed to feel and express more than just any one emotion at any given time; that hit me hard. It’s something that’s truth and comfort and safety and empowering and I can’t wait until my kids watch this film and understand the principles within it.
There’s so much in it that I wish I understood as a child, and Disney/Pixar just knocked it out of the park. Even the 5-minute short, Lava, at the beginning of the film was a type of things to come, being this almost tragic tale that was rescued by love.
I recommend Inside Out to everybody, and give it 5 voices in your head out of 5. But don’t let how much I loved it alter YOUR expectations. Go in expecting something mediocre and allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised. I dare you.
And tell me, out of all the films you’ve ever seen, which has disappointed you the most?