The best way to describe Pixar's newest venture, Inside Out, is to picture what would happen if "feelings had feelings." Most of the movie takes place inside the head of 11-year old Riley, an imaginative and overall "happy" girl from Minnesota. Things up in Riley's head get a little wild after her family moves to San Francisco. Joy, the narrator, has her hands full between keeping Fear, Disgust, Anger, and Sadness in line and helping to keep Riley herself in good spirits when nothing seems to be going right. When Sadness takes things (memories) literally into her own hands, Joy goes on a mission to rescue Riley from herself.
The way Pixar imagines the inner-workings of our brains is fun and easy to understand without being dumbed-down or childish. I loved the idea of "Personality Islands," "Core Memories," and they way they visualized all the details of memory processing. The scenes in Long Term Memory were a hoot, especially the gum commercial gag and the romp through Imagination Land.
Beyond being great way to think about how we feel, Inside Out is an appeal to the importance of our feelings (having them, expressing them, honoring them). The story, while simple, allows the five Feelings to shine: their purpose, when boiled down, is to keep us alive, and they're great at it. When things get out of balance - say Fear or Anger runs the control board - that's when we run into real world troubles. We hide our problems instead of seeking out ways to solve them, or we explode and push others away. Even when Joy runs the show for too long, things go blah. We need Disgust, to keep us from being poisoned. We need Fear to keep us out of danger. We need Anger to motivate us. We need Joy to lift us up. We need Sadness to grow, to get through changes, and to properly grieve the things we lose (even if those things are intangibles, like a friendship, a hockey team, or a feeling of home). This myriad of emotions makes us human.
At the climax of the film, sniffling noises echoed around the theater where Jesus and I watched. "Like a thousand people are crying," Jesus whispered to me. I picked my head up from his shoulder, where I had leaned over when my own tears started to spill. "Never mind, a thousand and one." If the rest of those theatergoers and I learned anything during those few hours, it's that Sadness demands to be felt, and that's not a bad thing.