Meg LeFauve’s ‘Inside Out’ a perfect film for quarantine

As part of our Sister Series, FF2 Media Vice President Brigid Presecky and Engagement Manager Georgi Presecky discuss their favorite films by female filmmakers. Be sure to click on the film titles for full reviews.

Brigid
INSIDE OUT was released in 2015 by Pixar Animation and Walt Disney Pictures. 

Georgi
Yeah, the film is written by Meg LeFauve, who more recently also co-wrote CAPTAIN MARVEL, and she has a story credit on the most recent Pixar release ONWARD. And though a lot of Pixar movies are written by women, they have yet to release a film in 25 years of existence that’s directed by a woman, but I think INSIDE OUT is a really good example of one of their films that has important female characters in it. And not only are the characters really strong, but the actresses who play them are playing an active role as women in film, still, even though the movie came out five years ago.

Brigid
Yeah, so the movie follows an 11-year-old girl named Riley who moves from the Midwest to San Francisco and basically how she deals with all that, all the emotions that go through a mind of losing friends and being in a new place and being an only child and then those emotions are characters in her mind.

Georgi
Yeah, so the most notable female characters that play her emotions there is Sadness, Joy, and Disgust; and Mindy Kaling voices Disgust and obviously she’s one of the go-to-people for women in film. She starred in LATE NIGHT last year, which she also wrote, and she has an upcoming series on Netflix, and Disgust is just such a funny character in the film. And then Amy Poehler is Joy, which she just does such a great job as Joy. Like she basically plays Leslie Knope from PARKS AND RECREATION but in the mind of an 11-year-old girl and how that girl expresses joy.  

These emotions in her head take over kind of the dashboard of her personality, so they help make her memories. They help form who she is and what she believes and when she’s kind of uprooted, everything is kind of shaky inside her mind and Joy and Sadness get lost inside her consciousness and it’s their journey back to her mind, so it’s kind of like she’s feeling lost. She’s lost her joy and sadness and they have to find their way back to her, but it’s just such a brilliant story for that time in your life when everything’s kind of up in the air and uncertain. You’re not yet a teenager. You’re not in high school yet. You’re not sure if the things you believed as a child are the same, so it’s actually like a really complex psychological movie, but it’s also super funny because of these voice actors and because of LeFauve’s writing and it’s just really enjoyable. 

It’s on Disney+ now and, again, only one percent of the movies on Disney+ are directed by women, but there are so many great offerings from female writers and this one’s just really special because it passes the Bechdel-Wallace test with flying colors. Like Riley is the whole point of the movie and her emotions that kind of steer her and help her ground herself. It’s kind of funny and worth noting that fear and anger are the other two emotions in her brain and they’re both male in this kind of zany world of inside her mind, so I think that’s pretty funny on behalf of the screenwriters that Fear and Anger are both male while the other emotions are female.  

Brigid
What do you think separates INSIDE OUT from the films that have been written by men? Do you think there’s anything inherently female about INSIDE OUT that’s different?

Georgi
No, and I think that that’s what’s cool about it. Like Riley, she’s not obviously a stereotypical girly girl or a super tomboy; she’s somewhere in between, which I think is cool. Gender isn’t really relevant, which I think is the way to go, versus I think some other Pixar movies. I love all of them, but like INCREDIBLES 2 tried to take kind of a weird angle where Mrs. Incredible was this Elastigirl was super tough and cool and you can only be a strong female if you’re tough and cool.  I’m trying to think of any other examples of female Pixar characters. There’s BRAVE, of course, which was originally directed by Brenda Chapman, but she talks in Amy Adrion’s documentary, HALF THE PICTURE, about how that credit was kind of taken away from her, so Pixar is something really interesting to study when it comes to women in animation and they’ve obviously made improvements like with Disney Animation when they merged. Jennifer Lee wrote and directed FROZEN and FROZEN II. But INSIDE OUT, it’s kind of gender-neutral. I know I just made a point about the emotions being female, but it’s super funny. It really doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or a boy; you can relate to what Riley’s feeling. And all of her personality islands and her core memories, it’s just such a complex and interesting story for a movie for kids and it’s really moving. 

Brigid
And a tearjerker for adults. Like any other Pixar movie, there are just themes that adults understand, similar to maybe the first couple minutes of UP. Like it’s sad, but really that’s made for adults and I think INSIDE OUT is somewhat made for adults, as well.

Georgi
I think so too. Like there’s an aspect of it about her imaginary friend Bing Bong and how he kind of gets lost in her mind and how you lose things as you get older. But in the end, at the end of this film, she’s gained so much more than she’s lost after she moves. Like once she gives into her sadness, which is basically the theme of the film is that you need sadness to appreciate joy. Yeah, to kids, it’s a colorful, light-hearted funny movie, but to adults, they can really relate to the fact that those five emotions kind of do tinge each one of our memories. I think that’s part of the reason it did win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2016 and I think it’s really cool to go back and watch Pete Docter’s Oscar speech because he talks about how you have all these emotions when you’re kid, but you can channel that into something creative, which is what he did, which is why he went on to be one of Pixar’s best directors. And I think, right now, with quarantine and with kids out of school, [children] and adults too are experiencing a lot of emotions and channeling those into creative endeavors, so I think it’s really a good re-watch. I’m sure most people have seen it already just because it was so popular and such a success, but I think it’s a really great movie written by a woman that people should revisit because there’s things you’ll notice upon re-watching that you didn’t see the first time. 

Brigid
I agree. And around the time that they won the Oscar, Meg LeFauve participated in The Hollywood Reporter’s Roundtable for Screenwriters and she said that advice given to her is “Write what you know,” and she said that could be taken two ways. You could either write what you know like literally or figuratively, so obviously we don’t always think of our emotions as like characters running around in our minds, but like we all know what it’s like to be 11-years-old and feeling like you don’t know who you are yet and I think she nailed that aspect of it – write what you know.

Georgi
And I love that you brought that up because you can kind of see that as a staple throughout her career. Like that’s true for INSIDE OUT. It’s true for CAPTAIN MARVEL. And with ONWARD, like we all go on these quests in our lives, which is the theme of that film. Meg LeFauve really has lived by that in her career and it’s cool to follow the trajectory of all these female screenwriters and what they’ve brought to the roundtable to bring it full circle.

Brigid
Like you said, INSIDE OUT is available to stream on Disney+.

© Brigid K. Presecky & Georgiana E. Presecky (4/22/20)

Photo credits: Pixar Animation and Walt Disney Pictures

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