Thursday, June 04, 2009
Up, Up, Up
Okay, I do not cry at movies, let's get that out of the way right up front. As I have pointed out many times, I have a shrivelled, little black heart, three sizes too small. There isn't a splinter of ice in it, but the contents of a whole ice tray. This may not be a "truth universally acknowledged"--I don't know that many people--but I'm pretty everyone who knows me, knows it. I've never seen Old Yeller, but I'm confident I'd escape dry-eyed.
Uncle Pookie, on the other hand, cries in movies. Like a baby. Cries more, as they would say in Get Fuzzy, than a French soccer player. Except for one notable instance when we went to see Ghost and Demi Moore's interminable bawling failed utterly to move either of us and all the people we went to see it with told us we were shallow or unfeeling or some such nonsense, I've pretty much always been able to expect him to cry at the affecting (affecting to other people, not me) bits. Still, if we are to be married we must learn to accept little flaws--like having a kind and tender heart--in our spouses.
Enter Up. We went to see this new Pixar film Tuesday evening, and the first twenty minutes of the film are almost unbearably sad. I had tears rolling down my face and my sides were quivering from the effort of trying to hold them back, and Uncle Pookie was unashamedly crying beside me in the darkness. I've never seen anything quite like it. It was sad the way life is sad. Not anything big and dramatic, no tragic heroes, just a quiet depiction of a couple of ordinary lives. Very little dialogue. Just a visual spanning of decades in the lives of very ordinary, non-exciting people who probably wouldn't be able to pass some contemporary people's test of "quality of life": unskilled jobs, continual struggle to pay bills, repeated delaying of dreams, a major disappointment or two, and the inevitable onset of age-related decay. And it all seemed beautiful as well as sad, every bit of it.
Fortunately for me the film moved on to its adventure tale. That part has lots of episodic peril and a good many funny bits as well. I may not have loved every bit--some parts were predictable and I wasn't keen on Dug's voice characterization and it seemed weird the bird would leave her chicks for so long--but I was well pleased over all. I liked the grouchy old man and the chubby little boy and the dogs with their special collars and the whimsy of the floating house and the wealth of details to notice and the heart of the film. It returned to the sadness again near the end of the story, but it was briefer and easier to bear the second time (still provoked tears, I'm afraid) and after a bit more action the story ended happily (and, in our over-regulated and dirty-minded world, improbably) in an ordinary happiness kind of way. Be sure to sit through the credits to see the charming little graphics and the usual list of Pixar babies.
On the way home Uncle Pookie said he didn't know if he would buy this Pixar DVD, as it's too sad, but I'll bet he does.
In case it's not blindingly obvious, this post is a recommendation. Go see it while it's still at theaters. I really can't be sure how well it will play to small children. I think you may have to be middle-aged and married to fully get what's going on in the grumpy old main character. Of course, there's nothing wrong with partial appreciation and I'm sure older kids would understand something of the sad parts, but little kids might just be bored until the doggies and the giant bird and the balloons come on. (Except for the cute pre-movie short.) If you do carry children to see it, at least you don't have to worry about any vulgarity in the film--there is absolutely none and the film's message is wholesome. And if it does turn out little ones don't like it, maybe it will be the mainstream film that finally changes the minds of those (mostly older) Americans who STILL think animated films are solely for children.
06/15/09 UPDATE: I'm feeling a bit better about my own reaction to Up now that Uncle Pookie reports a coworker told him she and her husband sat in the movie theater and "bawled" all through the sad bit. Maybe you really do have to be married? I know Dickens said somewhere we should never be ashamed of our tears, but I'm glad to know we weren't the only married couple who cried at this.