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Inside Out by Michael Giacchino (Review)

posted May 31, 2015, 9:03 AM by Kaya Savas   [ updated May 31, 2015, 9:11 AM ]

Michael Giacchino’s massive 2015 has given us Jupiter Ascending, Tomorrowland, Jurassic World and now he saves the best for last (assumably as I’ve yet to hear/see Jurassic World as of this review). Due to production shuffles, Pixar left us without a film in 2014 but the wait is well worth it for the strikingly beautiful, colorful, original, touching and emotionally lifting Inside Out. The last time director Pete Docter and Michael collaborated, it earned them both Oscars for Up which won Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score. So, rest assured that we have another wonderfully crafted story and score that are both wholly filled with organic emotions. Some people love saying that certain Pixar films appeal to adults on one level, while appealing to children on the other. I think that’s false, and in true Don Bluth fashion the film rides on the strong storytelling of Pete Docter that will make kids seeing Inside Out today feel the same when they see it in adulthood. Everything is on the same level here emotionally. Emotions don't discriminate against age, we may not understand why we’re feeling what we’re feeling at times but as humans we share the same emotional response. It’s what connects us and that’s what Inside Out embraces beautifully through film and score.

The story follows Riley, a young girl whose family moves to San Francisco where she must now adjust to a new life. Her emotions struggle to work together to keep her stable in her time of change and distress. Her emotions of course are characters inside her head and are represented as Joy, Disgust, Fear, Sadness and Anger. When sadness tries to help and accidentally converts most of Riley's essential memories to sad ones, it’s up to Joy to try and salvage Riley’s emotional state and memories before it’s too late.

Giacchino of course gives us a perfect central theme to shape our journey on. What follows is just another example (if you really needed one) of why Michael is one of the best composers that will ever work in film. Everything about the score is focused on the narrative progression and the emotional development. He makes everything feel organic and real, while still being able to give the world of the film its own unique soundscape. Whether we’re visiting the dream part of the brain or the abstract thought part, we feel the worlds come alive through the music’s stylings. As we progress we grow attached to the situation and to the character of Riley, her family and her emotions. We don’t want her to lose her happy memories, and we don’t want her to be sad. So it breaks our hearts when she is. Giacchino handles the emotional moments with grace and fragility while still creating this very real dramatic weight. There is a fantastic motif that is used when things are seeming dire that gives a sense of urgency as well. Since every one of us has gone through this process in our lives I think it plays with our fear of the inevitable, our fear of the loss of innocence. And the amazing part is that it never becomes manipulative. The final moments, when we’ve completed this journey of growth are moments that the score handles beautifully.

In the end this is simply a perfect and beautiful examination of the human condition. It’s about growth, it’s about change, it’s about feeling lost, it’s about moving forward. It’s about accepting that as we grow and gain new things, we inevitably lose parts of who we were in the past. But it’s about realizing that the saddest moments in life are also what make the happiest moments in life what they are. All of this is echoed through Michael Giacchino’s brilliant score. It’s a beautifully crafted, nuanced and living work of musical storytelling that makes it so unique yet still a part of Giacchino’s auteurist body of work. Every now and then a film and a score come along that really are a true examination of the human condition while telling a story we can all connect to emotionally. Inside Out, both film as a whole and the score, is that.