What- no bad guy? My review of BRAVE
When I really, really want to see a movie I usually avoid all reviews beforehand. I don’t want to go in with my mind twisted and looking for things.
In the case of Pixar’s BRAVE I’m so glad I read only one positive one.
Today Livvie and I went to the movies. We don’t go often because her brother is a menace at the theater, we learned that during WINNIE THE POOH, so I had to wait due to Rich’s work schedule. We saw the non-3D version at 1130 in the morning. She’s been beside herself for days. She was so stoked about the character Merida that she begged for a backpack and lunch bag for kindergarten. I wasn’t sure how she’d react. The movie is PG, and with good reason.
When we got home today I read some reviews, and I have to say- I beg to differ.
I read reviews and comments calling Merida’s father, King Fergus, a stereotypical Dumb Dad. Nope. Fergus is a good-natured doofus, it’s true. But there is nothing dumb about that man. Not ever. If being a fan of lowbrow humor makes a person dumb- I will surrender my useless extra IQ points. Fergus is delightful. He knows himself, he knows his daughter, and he loves life and having fun. He’s also crazy in love with his wife.
His wife. Imagine that. A fairy-tale type story with both parents around.
I read reviews stating that this movie got overly simplistic. Again- I disagree.
Every single movie we watch Livvie will say, “Is that the bad guy?” and I say yes. There is almost always a bad guy in “kids” movies. During our viewing today she didn’t ask that question once. Not ever. Because, spoiler alert, there is no bad guy. Nowhere is there a classic bad guy that creates the conflict. There’s just conflict. Supernatural-messy conflict eventually, but holy crap people. This is a kids’ movie with no bad guy. Using the bad guy to create conflict is the most simplistic storytelling in the history of ever. In BRAVE‘s plot the characters create their own conflict, and my five year old daughter noticed it enough to not even bother asking about it.
I also read that it’s a shame that once again the female protagonist is a princess, and blah blah-
Yeah. I get that. I do. My cynical part says, “Merchandising.” It does. Do Pixar’s writer’s start with merchandising on their minds? I don’t know. I do know that there are things called archetypes, and Pixar turned this one on its ass. And maybe, just maybe, that was one of the points?
As a mom I want to tell you what I saw.
I saw a mother who loved her children and her husband, who was overwhelmed at times with the responsibilities of being the queen, NOT, I might add, a position she married into. I will not spoil. Pay attention when you go. I saw a mother who didn’t understand her daughter because she was so different from how she was raised. I saw a mother who was frustrated beyond anything because her daughter wouldn’t conform to society’s demands, and that scared her for her child’s future. Scared her to the point of being over the top. A mother whose main complaint was that her daughter just wouldn’t listen to her.
I saw a husband who, although technically king, tried his best to abide by the mores common to the time. I saw him adore his wife AND his daughter, different though they may be. I saw him do his job as best he could while still having as much fun as possible because frankly, being king kind of sucks.
I saw a daughter who in trying so hard to be herself mucked up everything and then fought to repair it, loving both of her parents the whole time. I saw her learning about who she was by learning who her mother really was. Understanding. Growing up.
I saw a family.
I also saw a kickass movie with no bad guys. So did my kid. She did comment, “Merida’s mom is really upset,” at one point. No judgment. No assigning of anything.
To me that’s a success.
Life is messy. We all screw up. If we had bad guys to blame everything on (no matter how hard we try) things would be a lot easier to swallow. But in life most of us make our own mistakes and have to fix them. If we do, great. If not, well, we need to do better next time. No matter what.
I want to take away from this film that it was the first time my daughter started to think deeply about what she was seeing. In the end I really hope I remember three things:
One- While watching she leaned against me and said, “I’m so happy I’m here at the movies with you, Mom.” I told her I was happy to be with her, too.
Two- After the movie she looked at the mess left behind by the people who sat next to us and said, “They’re not taking care of the planet very well…”
Three- Near the end of the movie she turned to shift in her seat and saw the projector. It was one of the only times she spoke during the film. “What’s that?” I looked. “The projector.” “What does it do?” “Shhh I’ll tell you after the movie.” During the credits I explained the projector. She saw the image in the window, the beam of light shining to the screen, and the dust motes in that beam. She said, “It’s so beautiful.”
And it was.
Next time you go to the movies take a moment to look back at that beam of light telling you a story. Doesn’t matter what story, really. Just take a moment to look at how wonderful it all is.
The movies are magical. And as far as I’m concerned, this movie was a masterpiece.