Sunday, October 18, 2009

Inside Each One of Us Is...

First off, I want to say to anyone who plans on seeing this movie to toss out any expectations you might have before doing so. Going to watch this while having ideas about what to expect will not prove fulfilling, and this movie really deserves the chance to be experienced for what it is, not what people think it should be. I can guarantee you that it will probably not be what most people are expecting, but that doesn't mean it's bad. In fact, it's probably one of the best movies I've seen in a while, and certainly one of the most ambitious.

That makes it sound complicated, and on one hand it is, but mostly it's not. It's just made in a way that makes us think in ways we're not used to. This isn't a movie that champions the story, the important parts aren't what's said or what's done, it's what's felt. I really believe this is movie you have to experience emotionally, not intellectually, because it's ultimately about emotions that aren't fully comprehended but are nonetheless present. In some ways, it's difficult to experience because these emotions are present in just about everyone, but they're not always pleasant. It's a movie about childhood and what it's like to be a kid going through life transitions, and every kid has gone through them. Not in the same ways, but the feelings are probably pretty universal, and that's what makes it hard to watch at times.

It's not a feel-good movie the way we expect children's movies to be, it's more honest. I didn't find it depressing the way many people did, nor did I find it cathartic or uplifting. It's difficult to describe my response to it because I'm honestly not sure what I feel aside from respect for everyone involved in making it. It's a challenging movie, but it's not hard to understand when you stop trying to figure it out and just experience it.
The performances are fantastic. The kid playing Max, Max Records, never once seems like he's acting to me. This is a really challenging role for anyone, but particularly a kid because it's all internal. There are no Shakespearean soliloquies about what's going on with him, he doesn't try to explain it to anyone because he himself doesn't know what's going on inside him. But there are things going on, very specific things, that have to be projected for the audience to understand, and he does it phenomenally. The Things, too, are wonderful. The voice actors are all brilliant, especially James Gandolfini as Carol-- he's probably one of the most complex parts of the film aside from Max himself, and he just owns it.

But it's not even those performances, the actors inside the Thing suits never hit a wrong note with their body language, and the CGI expressions for their faces are some of the best animated acting I've seen done. There's so much subtlety in those faces, so many little things that hit emotional points with the audience in the brief flash they're onscreen. It's something you only notice in hindsight because I didn't notice it at all when I was watching it. That's how I know something is really done well. There was one part at the end with no words spoken, but to do so would have marred the emotional impact it had on me. It was probably the closest thing to an emotional climax the movie has, and it was beautiful because no one had to explain it.
I could try and talk about the film some more, but it's hard to do when you're trying to explain something like a feeling to a person who hasn't experienced it. (The film itself even does this a few times in the way that children explain things when they don't have the words.) So to the people interested in it, go see it, but leave your expectations and fuzzy childhood memories at the door. Leave all your baggage outside the theater, stop trying to make sense out of it, and just let the film be what it is. Doesn't mean you have to like it, and some people won't, even if they "get" it. But just try to take the film on its own terms and realize it's not the sort of film you're probably used to seeing-- it's trying something new. That alone makes it worth seeing in my book, regardless of how successful it is in the end.

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