Hello mom, hello daughter | Film reviews | Salt Lake City

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Originality is not everything, but it is at least… Something. The old cliché says there are only four/five/never mind how many plots in the story of storytelling, and there is more than a tinge of truth. Beyond reducing each narrative to “man versus nature” or “man versus himself” or whatever, it’s a way of acknowledging that execution means a lot ; find a creative way to tell a familiar story, and you might still be on solid ground. But how familiar can a story be and still get away with it? And how much creativity is needed to make up for it when familiarity is right really familiar?

Animated elements in particular tend to go to certain pits, like the “Rudolph the red nosed reindeer plot” focusing on an outcast who eventually learns that being different makes them special — with regularity. The little Mermaid for Mulane for coconut to recent Encanto in the stories of young people struggling with the expectations imposed by their elders. What’s new from Disney/Pixar turn red gives us another variation on this theme, and while co-writer/director Domee Shi (the Oscar-winning Pixar short Bao) brings cultural specificity and lively animation to the table, it’s hard not to feel like that table is still cluttered with things you’ve seen before, in a dozen previous stories of frustrated kids trying to figure it out. bring parents and/or grandparents to a new way of thinking.

The frustrated kid here is Meilin Lee (Rosalie Chiang), a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian living in Toronto with her parents (Sandra Oh and Orion Lee). A super achiever at school who always manages to find time for her three best friends – Miriam (Ava Morse), Priya (Maitreyi Rama Krishnan) and Abby (Hyein Park) – Meilin seems to manage what she perceives as expectations from his mother. perfection. However, one night after her mother embarrasses her in front of several classmates, Meilin has a strange dream and wakes up to find she has the Lee Family condition where the girls turn into giant red pandas when ‘they become particularly emotional.

To Shi and co-writer Julia Cho’s credit, they brought to the table a metaphorical take on Meilin’s body-switching experience, in what may be mainstream American animation’s first-ever direct reference to menstruation. turn red doesn’t shy away from making her character largely tied to “becoming a woman” – a refrain used by Meilin and her friends regarding their planned trip to see a boy band concert that got them all excited and bothered .

That’s not to say it’s a lecture or lacks pure entertainment value. The creative team creates delightful character animations, especially for Meilin, including a sequence in which she practically crawls out of her own skin trying to resist the reality that she’s gone a little boy-crazed. A vivid visual sense of time and place emerges not just from the geographic setting of Toronto, but from the filmmaker setting the story during her own teenage years in 2002, full of flip phones and Tamagotchi toys, in addition to original songs. NSYNC-style. written for the film by Billie Eilish and her brother/producer Finneas.

It’s clearly a personal story for the filmmaker, and there are certainly unique elements to growing up the only child of Chinese parents. But the character dynamics in turn red just feeling stale, too similar to Pixar’s mother/daughter clash Braveor the restrictive sex roles of Mulaneor the physical manifestation of pubescent emotional turmoil in Upside down. Even the arrival of Meilin’s (Ho-Wai Ching) grandmother who started this generational clash echoes what we saw last year at Encanto.

There is no doubt that some viewers will view this story with the same personal connection as Domee Shi, and turn red will likely have greater resonance for them. Even though you were face to face with your own overbearing parent, you may have worked through those feelings in one of the other animated stories about them. This cute, fluffy story about a cute, fluffy alter-ego is meant to serve up an emotional finale, except it’s a story you may have seen more than a few times in the last 30 years.

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