‘Inside Out’ sets box office records and shows it’s time to embrace the emotion of acceptance

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Amy Poehler is the voice of Joy in the new Disney/Pixar hit "Inside Out." Photo provided

Amy Poehler is the voice of Joy in the new Disney/Pixar hit “Inside Out.” Photo provided

If you could feel my current predominant emotion through this screen right now, it would be bright, shiny satisfaction.

I know that’s not one of the five emotions young Riley (voice of Kaitlyn Dias) experiences in the new animated movie Inside Out, but the new Disney/Pixar hit is the reason I’m feeling it.

And I’m hoping it will spark a different kind of emotion in minds of certain decision-makers around Hollywood: acceptance.

The wonderfully rich and emotionally resonant Pixar film earned $91.1 million over its opening weekend, the best opening for an original Pixar title and the second best of any Pixar film behind Toy Story 3, which opened to $110.3 million and had the advantage of being a pivotal installment of a beloved, groundbreaking franchise, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Inside Out gave the box-office behemoth Jurassic World a tight race to first place; the prehistoric sequel eventually took the top spot, stampeding to $102 million in its second weekend, declining 51 percent from its record-setting opening weekend and almost eclipsing The Avengers ($103 million) to score the top sophomore gross of all time, according to the trade publication.

Although Inside Out becomes the first Pixar film to finish outside first place, it defied every realistic industry expectation by going toe-to-toe with current box-office golden boy Chris Pratt and his herd of CGI dinosaurs. Many box-office watchers had expected Inside Out to top out at $65 million. Instead, Inside Out claims ownership to the top opening for any original movie – live-action, animated or otherwise – that isn’t based on sourced material, eclipsing the $77 million debut of Avatar.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, it accomplished this feat because of the wide variety of audience the Pixar film was able to draw: families (71 percent), adults (21 percent) and teens (8 percent). Audiences for Inside Out skewed female at 56 percent, which is not as high a number as I predicted.

So, here’s why I’m feeling satisfaction and the demand for acceptance: It’s time for the Hollywood suits to stop embracing these ridiculous notions that filmgoers won’t go to see movies about female characters. Furthermore, it’s time to let go of the idea that moviegoers don’t want to see smart, high-concept films.

Inside Out is the just the second of Pixar’s 15 films over 20 years – after 2012’s Brave – to feature a female as the primary protagonist, the aforementioned Riley. I’m a huge Pixar fan, but that’s just not enough.

More than that, the film takes viewers literally inside the 11-year-old girl’s head as she tries to cope with the conflicting emotions of her family moving from her beloved Minnesota to San Francisco for her dad’s job. Riley’s two main emotions that actually become the main characters of the story are both female in nature and voiced by women: Joy, played by Amy Poehler, and Sadness, played by Phyllis Smith.

(The other three of Riley’s primary emotions are Disgust, voiced by Mindy Kaling; Fear, played by Bill Hader; and Anger, a cannily cast Lewis Black. I must say I love this notion that not all of a girl’s emotional characters have to be inherently female, just like all the hockey-loving tween’s interests don’t have to be stereotypically feminine.)

Just let these facts sink in for a second: Pixar’s team, co-directors Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen, who co-wrote the screenplay with Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley, created a movie about a female character that is literally all about her emotions — and it is an unabashed box-office hit. And it’s a hit that managed to appeal to not just family audiences but also adults and teens, even with a more stereotypical blockbuster stomping around cineplexes.

It’s past time that the Hollywood brass learned to deal with it: People will go to see movies about girls and women, and they will go to see movies that are smarter and more imaginative than your average walnut-brained brontosaurus as long as they are smartly and imaginatively made.

And as long as it continues to make them money, they’ll feel much better for their acceptance.

An update on Hollywood’s summer of women

This has been widely viewed as Hollywood’s summer of women since so many films have female main characters, and along with the great opening for Inside Out, there are other signs of success.

While the new Pixar movie and the latest Jurassic sequel were battling out for first place Melissa McCarthy’s comedy Spy was showing it has strong legs, taking in another $10.5 million for third place on the domestic box office list, according to The Hollywood Reporter. That brings the well-reviewed, relatively modestly budgeted comedy to $74.3 million.

The early-summer smash Pitch Perfect 2, directed by record-setting first-time director Elizabeth Banks, took in another $3.2 million to finish at No. 7 in its sixth week to bring its overall take to $177.5 million.

Mad Max: Fury Road, with its powerhouse turn by Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, ended up in the eighth spot with another $2.8 million in its sixth week for an overall haul of $143.6 million.

That’s the good news, but there’s enough sexism and stereotyping to have USA Today’s Brian Truitt wondering today “Does Hollywood have an issue with women?” (Is this really a question?)

Truitt in particular points to Jurassic World‘s alleged main character Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard, whose one-dimension protagonist has no shot winning over film audiences already susceptible to Pratt’s considerable charm), the spotless-white-suit-wearing, heart-as-cold-as-ice operations manager of the titular theme park who cares about nothing but profits, doesn’t even know how old her visiting nephews are, dumps said nephews on her hapless assistant rather than actually spending time with them and basically has to constantly be reminded by the men in life (especially Pratt’s head dino wrangler and her life-loving boss played by Irrfan Khan) to stop thinking about money and efficiency all the dang time.

She’s basically an insulting stereotype about what successful women in business must be like, and while Pratt’s Owen has the ability to become the alpha to a herd of raptors (which I thought I remembered from the original Jurassic Park were a female-dominated species), Claire’s greatest skill is apparently running for her life in three-inch pumps.

I was rooting for the dinosaurs in her case, basically.

In its first 10 days, Jurassic World has earned a massive $398 million domestically, according to The Hollywood Reporter. That’s a lot of people to devour such a sad stereotype.

 Quick hitters

– Three cheers for Natalie Portman. According to MSNBC, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg revealed Saturday Portman, who will soon play the justice in a film about her feminist legal work in the 1970s, held up the project because the actress wanted a female director.

“Natalie Portman came to talk to me about this, and we had a very good conversation,” Ginsburg told her former clerk, California Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu, at the American Constitution Society convention in Washington. “And one thing, interesting, that she insisted on, it held up the project for awhile. She said, ‘I want the director to be a woman. There are not enough women in this industry. There are many talented out there.’ And now they do have a woman director.”

Deadline Hollywood reported last month that Marielle Heller, whose directorial debut Diary of a Teenage Girl earned raves at Sundance, was in negotiations to direct the biopic, On the Basis of Sex.

– Turner Classic Movies has set a deal with Women in Film Los Angeles for a three-year programming initiative designed to address the lack of gender equality in the film business and highlight the contributions of women behind the camera, according to Variety.com.

The partnership will include programming in the month of October for the next three years that will focus on work done by women outside of the acting realm.

–  Mission Impossible and Star Trek star Simon Pegg recently told BuzzFeed News that although the film industry is starting to recognize its lack of well-written female characters, the problem is not being addressed fast enough.

“I personally don’t feel there are enough female voices in film,” Pegg said. “I hope that the recognition of the lack of well-written female characters will be followed by change.”

Pegg said that one of the problems was that film genres are often split into gendered categories. He singled out romantic comedies as being a genre that is often misunderstood by many as being “for women,” and that people should go and see films written by women, not to avoid them because they think they’re films “for girls.”

“Romantic comedies are about the dynamic between men and women – or men and men or women and women, depending on what the movies about. To say ‘oh I don’t want to go and see that because it’s a girls film’ is shutting yourself off from some big laughs,” he said.

Pegg is starring in the upcoming romantic comedy Man Up, and he praised the film’s writer, Tess Morris, for writing a female lead in Lake Bell’s Nancy who is “honest and true” rather than “some male fantasy of what a woman is or should be.”

Sounds like a rom-com I might actually bother to see.

-BAM

 

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