Thursday, August 30, 2012

Brave ***

Director: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman

It’s a shame that sometime in the last ten years, the word “Disney movie” became associated with old fashioned, sappy and obsolete when compared to more progressive animation studios like Dreamworks, Blue Sky and especially Pixar. Although the quality of Disney Animation Studios did diminish (sadly taking down their 2D branch) the true thing is that the house of the mouse remained loyal to what Walt had once envisioned; making magic in our world seem possible.

The old sing and dance cartoon flicks that once made the studio the most groundbreaking filmmakers in the world, became object of parody. But how many of us still treasure the countless times we saw Peter Pan and Dumbo growing up? And how have we come to realize that despite their undeniable profundity and complexity, Pixar movies will never truly relit that first spark of awe ignited by Disney classics?

Pixar’s sophisticated filmmaking techniques have spoiled us yes, but sometimes it’s still refreshing to let ourselves be enchanted by a simple (not to be confused with simplistic) fairytale. Brave, might be the most effortless film to be put out by the Pixar brand, and it truly feels much more like a “Disney” movie than one made by the people behind Wall-E and Toy Story, but this in the end doesn’t seem to matter much. Despite the film not being the melting pot of “will-they-pull-this-off”s Pixar has made us used to, it still contains the sincerity and deep love of storytelling that has made them such beacons of creativity.

Set in Scotland, the film centers on the unorthodox Princess Merida, a hot headed beauty who’d rather spend the day horseback riding and shooting arrows, than learning how to sew and training to find the perfect husband. Her mother, Queen Elinor, finds herself in a constant battle with her daughter who refuses to conform to tradition; it doesn’t help that her husband King Fergus seems almost oblivious to everything going on around them.

When Merida defies the rules and refuses to choose among the candidates offered to her in marriage, she and her mother undergo the ultimate kind of battle. The central twist in the film can easily be deduced by anyone who knows how these “try to have some empathy” movies work and when it unfolds, its familiarity somehow makes it feel quite refreshing. The rest of the movie plays out like a well told bedtime story (legends and storytelling are a constant theme in the screenplay) until it surprisingly transforms into something more profound: it’s an oft-touching dissection of the loves our mothers have for us.

Without being preachy or overly sentimental, the film tackles the right balance between what society expects of men and women. The film is filled with stunning action sequences that become even more exciting because of the heroine’s beauty. They do not stimulate the mind in the way watching Angelina Jolie or Sigourney Weaver kicking butt do; they make endless adventure seem possible for people regardless of their gender and sexual orientation. While the “mainstream” lesson might have something to do with how we each own our destiny (which in itself isn’t a shabby lesson at all), the more subversive subtext in the film allude to how women must often battle harder than men and always find themselves at stakes with men and other women. It’s lovely to see a story so devoted to womanhood, especially because of how it comes to represent an entire history of female liberation. See how it reminds us that more often than not, women are the real authority figures in the household, and regardless of how cute they are, isn’t it interesting how Merida’s triplet brothers don’t get to utter a single word in the movie?
By subverting our notions of what a Pixar movie should be, isn’t Brave in a way (from its very form), alluding to the battles faced everyday by women who feel they have to live up to standards created by and for men?

The powerful feminine force behind Brave is especially obvious when compared to the short film that precedes it. In Enrico Casarosa’s La Luna we see the patriarchal system at its most obvious and the dichotomy created by the juxtaposition of the short and feature films, will make for fascinating post-screening conversations among all family members. Will little boys and girls want to be like the nameless boy of La Luna or like Merida? The time will come when the answer won’t really make a difference, only then will we know we are living in a truly brave world.


Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Yes, but why only THREE stars? *huffs and puffs*

This is one of the best looking Pixar movies, and it's probably in my top 3 of there's. Simple and familiar but also earnestly mounted and beautifully acted and so effortless.

Jose Solís said...

Because I'm spoiled and wanted more complexity. This is Tangled when all I crave is WALL-E.