After a month long exposure to the darker side of the human imagination, I have decided to cleanse my mind. I really wanted to keep watching all the other movies that I had picked out and were recommended to me, but I just couldn't take it anymore. I needed something positive, colorful, cheerful, and uplifting. Something that would take my eyes off of the shadows and focus on the light. Whats that you say? Pixar has been making animations like this for decades? (I never said that) Oh yea, I remember them. Lets watch one that I haven't seen yet.
UP is not a movie for children. This movie has a huge amount of themes that are too deep for kids to deal with and should not be delving into at such an early age. I would actually classify this as an adult drama film with cartoon camoflauge. While I watched this, I noticed that this entire film is about one mans journey through the 5 stages of grief. I will explain below and want you to look out for them while you watch it as well!
The first 20-30 minutes is a quick view of Carl's life. An almost too fast-pased utopian montage give us perspective to who he is, what he likes to do, and how he deals with things. We see him fall in love and find his soul mate. Of course his lady dies. If you did not see that coming then I really think you need to take some time and think about what kind of person you are. (I totally saw it coming! I smart!) With Ellies death comes our first theme, Loss. Carl loses the one thing he cared most about. Everything after this point was him trying to hold onto what was lost. All the little trinkets, shelves, chairs, paintings, pictures, and eventually the entire house. Carl is actually in the denial stage of the Kubler-Ross Model. He is keeping everything exactly the way it was before she died to keep the memory of her alive. We especially see this as a city starts building up around him. This does not bode well with Carl and leads up into the next stage.
Anger is stage two. Some contractors are trying to convince Carl to give up his land so they can spring up more buildings for the newly run corporate world. This is probably the area Wall-e takes place but that is a whole different story. Well he gets into a tiff with some construction workers and, I guess, gets kicked off his land. In another fit of rebellion, and to help conserve the memory of Ellie, he makeshifts the house into a cozy hot air balloon James and the Giant Peach style.
On his way out to fulfill his and Ellie's dream of visiting Paradise Falls, he finds that there has been an unexpected tag-along. Russel was seen earlier in his anger stage. Carl miraculously combines two of the stages into one and shows examples of both anger and bargaining from here on out. He coaxes Russel into helping him with this task to keep Ellie alive. (Well he couldn't really go back so he had to let the kid stay. DUH) The anger stays as he tries to shoo off any new entity that comes into frame. The bargaining also comes into play when he finds a good use for those new guest with his quest. The biggest give away for me that this movie revolves around grief was the house. Carl uses the house as a bargaining token with himself. He tells himself that if he can get this house to the top of the falls then and only then can he feel good again. The house is actually a physical manifestation of Ellie at this point, mostly because he keeps speaking to the house as if it were still her, AND its a representation of how the past can weigh us down. Its actually very beautiful how they flipped that thought and had the two male characters anchor the house down. As I said, THIS MOVIE GOES DEEP. Its like Inception but with my emotions I keep finding more and more connections with the main theme the more I type. Each time a bundle of balloons pops the house drops closer to the ground thus building tension. The balloons were the health bar to the memory of Ellie. If the house lands then Carl fails her dying wish and would eventually lose control of his life.
The fourth stage is depression. Carl is only seen in this stage for a quick scene, but it is a very emotional scene. Carl gets fed up with all of his companions and starts to isolate himself. Classic stage four. Flooring the house down to the cold hard mountain land he decides to take one more trip down memory lane. Pulling out a book filled to the brim with Polaroids, he reflects. This stage is normally the longest in the real world and can potentially be the worst to get out of. Depression could be referred to as the dress rehearsal for the 'aftermath'. Since this is a Pixar movie they don't really want to spend too much time here. He gets to the end of the book and has an epiphany that Ellie and him actually led a very full and happy life. As it does in real life, Carl quickly transitions from stage four to five. Acceptance.
In the final stage of grief a person finally calms down and acquires a stable mind. The thick melon on Carl's shoulders takes a second but does come around. He starts by realizing that he needs to help Russel out with his request. He asks the house to help him out with one last task before departing. Clearing out all of the now irrelevant items, that were only weighing down the house, starts the acceptance process. This allows him to perform better and start on a clean slate. The next time we see acceptance in the movie is the last time we see the house. It falls down from view and elegantly fades into the clouds. We then hear Carl utter in a quaint but wholesome tone "Well, you know, it was just a house." This signifies that he has completely detached the memory of Ellie from his life and can finally move on in a direction that will be filled with positivity and new adventures.
Wow. I really cant fathom that a childrens movie could have moved me so much. I knew that this was a good experience going in but had no idea that this had such depth to it. If I were alone when viewing UP I probably would have been waterlogged the entire time. But since I am a man, and ya know have to keep it together all the time, I held back those tears until I was alone. I really enjoyed breaking down this flick into psychological bullet points and will seriously start looking for similar themes in others. Good job Pixar! I fullheartedly believe that you can not make a terrible story.