Sunday, November 29, 2015

Inside Out Proves Animated San Francisco is More Real Than Real San Francisco

Instead of re-watching Star Wars again, I decided to watch a new movie that I’ve never seen before: Inside Out.

This movie appeals to my San Franciscan bias that leads me to accept even terrible movies, as long as they take place here (e.g. George of the Jungle).  In fact, it even gives a glimpse of my actual street. There is a tour of an authentic-looking San Francisco house that would probably go for $3-5m or so, complete with retro radiators and landlord-white walls. The hockey rink in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge is right there in the Presidio, near Lucasland and the Disney Family Museum. The animated San Franciscans inhabiting these digital sets are as diverse as actual San Franciscans. This animated movie has more San Francisco-ness than the last several live-action movies I’ve seen set here. 

A local-style no-longer-functional decorative fireplace (San Franciscans often put decorative lights in them to simulate fire)
Some people believe we San Franciscans can be smug at times; they’re probably right. This is more proof why I’m terrible at subjective reviews. Set in SF? Automatic 10. Set in NY? Engage bias.

But besides the big gooey hug for San Francisco, there’s actually a decent movie here, where several personifications of various neurological states cooperate in animating a young girl named Riley, who suffers an extreme injury to her psyche in that she temporarily refuses to accept her status as a smug San Franciscan, and tries to escape to the flyovers.

In Riley’s case, this leads to an Odd Couple situation as her somewhat narcissistic sense of Joy teams up with her pragmatic Sadness as they navigate the destruction and rebuilding of Riley’s spheres of interest following her move to San Francisco.

It’s often hard to express, but sometimes psychological-type movies leave me screaming “no, shut up, that is absolutely not science” at my screen, while others leave me nodding happily, thinking yes, this is good useful information that might help people. And Inside Out fell into the latter category. I’ve got this fascination with formation of personality that occasionally leads me to read about psychology and neurology and similar things, but I freely admit to being untrained and incapable of possessing any authoritative opinions. Still. I liked the visualization of the complexity of Riley’s memories, and the way Sadness actually gets things done amidst Joy’s compulsive cheerleading, and the way each personification resembled their host – the same happens in the glimpses of the command teams inside other characters’ heads. Sadness is not an essential Sadness, she’s Riley’s very own Sadness, non-interchangeably.

Riley has an imaginary friend named Bingbong, a being uncomfortably similar to Jarx2 Binks, who pops up to help escort Joy and Sadness through their perilous journey from memory banks back to executive function. He irritated me slightly, as the presence of a magical knowitall seemed to detract from Joy’s scenes with Sadness. Fortunately he goes away, because if he didn’t, poor Riley would be schizophrenic and doomed to his annoying company for the rest of her life. 

This movie makes me happy because it might inspire people who like it to come visit, and I get the impression that people who enjoyed this movie would be especially fun to chat with on Muni buses or in cafes. Way more so than George of the Jungle fans. 

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