Scottish people and redheads come out, come out! It’s cool to be you right now. When Brave‘s Princess Merida takes to her hairy tank of a horse and och-aye’s through the woods like a wee sprite, firing her arrows willy-nilly, her coppery curlicues dancing in the breeze, all people of the carrot and people of the haggis should rise up in the wake of her glory! She’s the best thing on the planet right now, and I for one am donning a kilt and heading off to my bagpipe lessons. Let’s make the most of it because Am feur a thig a-mach sa Mhàrt, thèid e staigh sa Ghiblean and there’ll be a new Pixar flick out soon enough celebrating puffins or toasters or some such silliness.
Since its inception, Pixar has been the most reliable studio for your entertainment buck. Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Up—these delightful movies have become many people’s favorites, and not just with the kids in the crowd. Their recipe isn’t unique: a solid, simple story that engages; characters who are stylized enough to be funny but with enough depth to fuel a few moving moments; animation that relates to beauty of the natural world. Pixar, the son of Disney, has become everything the senior studio used to be, and hasn’t been since Beauty and the Beast.
Brave is another first rate entertainment. If it doesn’t quite soar to the heights of their masterpieces it’s more about the law of averages than any fault in the flick. Even Shakespeare had his minor moments, better than most people’s finest hours. But I’m splitting hairs, and ginger ones at that! This is a good movie.
The mother-daughter conflict at the center of the tale is voiced by Emma Thompson and Kelly MacDonald, fine fine actresses, with guts and subtlety, pathos and comedy, willingness to risk the sentimental but never dipping into the maudlin. Their time on screen (or should I say “on speaker”) is layered and exhilarating, even when Emma’s gone bear. They present two generations of strong women and they have a lot to learn from each other and at the outset very little willingness to learn it.
The queen-mother has put her considerable power toward working within the system and she’s excelled; the princess-daughter has tethered her force of nature to the rights of the individual to carve a life for herself outside of the norm and she’s in trouble. The princess makes a terrible mistake. The flip side of the coin of self-actualization is selfishness. Let’s just say the entire hour and half teaches them both the glory of compromise. If it wasn’t so thoroughly tartan-ized I’d say it’s practically Canadian.
It’s only when the movie ends that you realize how radical it’s been. Not to give it away, but what always happens in these sorts of movies doesn’t.
I couldn’t find any children to take, so I took a couple of shortish Twinks. They were having some sort of sulky hissy fight. I really should have sat in the middle! Anyway, when it was all over I wanted to talk about how great it had been, but the movie barely seemed to have made an impression on them. It made me wonder if Brave is too subtle to be the blockbuster it deserves to be. Perhaps some of those typical ending tropes—the undoing of the scurrilous villain, the lovers reconciled, a death and a marriage—are sorely missed by the average viewer. This is Disney a la Jean Renoir. No heroes, no villains, just people with their reasons.
But Scottish people! With bright red hair! And damn good reasons. Get your kilts on, babies, and toss your cabers in the face of social conformity—while at the same time have the guts to factor in the needs of the people around you whom you love. Watch Brave, and then be it.