If Inside Out is meant to explore the unhealthy juggling of emotions while expanding upon the gradual loss of preteen innocence, then “Turning Red” might as well be a full uncensored version of that. It is an advent of puberty, a menstruation metaphor and a sweet but antic allegory for uncomfortable life changes all at once…..and it’s bloody brilliant.
Domee Shi, after tugging on our heartstrings with Bao back in 2018, decides to get a little messy with getting from Point A to point B here and as it’s meant to dissect the rapidly increasing disorganization of the teenage mind, it absolutely works. Confronting this hot-button subject matter with the type of honesty that only a woman could, it automatically gives the film a new dimension that not many other family friendly films will go the distance with while still supplying a playful mood. While how the film looked took a while to get used to, Pixar continues to prove that how they utilize their animation and presentations are difficult to criticize. Influenced by older styles of 2D cartooning, the lighting, shading and framing is equipped with resident anime flair with energetic camarawork and dynamic editing following suit.
Voice acting is uniformly charismatic and vibrant, backed by some truly snappy dialogue that merely just avoids being cringey, a couple of musical numbers by Ludwig Göransson set the mood and chill-filled, friendly atmosphere just about right with a brisk pace that flows along quickly and a lot of ample room was left for character studies to develop and dissect all of these characters from the uncomfortably relatable to the understandable nightmares.
Yes, this story is another in the long line regarding kids struggling to appease to expectations while eagerly deciphering the pleasures of teenage life and setting their own boundaries. Formulaic and predictable, it ain’t gonna win Best Original Screenplay but between finding a solid support system, the uneven power struggle between mothers and daughters, the awkwardness of early physical maturation, the way pop music and celebrity crushes can serve as vectors for burgeoning sexuality, I will applaud them for layering this particular journey through the complicated, abrupt and embarrassing periods (no pun intended) of going through adolescence while also remembering to be a little rambunctious about it.
It knows to still have fun with itself, shuffling through all the emotional highs and lows while normalizing periods and normalizing one other universal message that absolutely gutted me: it’s ok to not be in control of everything all the time. We’re all constantly evolving into what we believe is the best versions of ourselves.
By far my biggest detractor with this is that sometimes the film has a little too much fun with itself. And by that, I mean it gets so coked up on energy that when a particular scene calls for a sad moment or something more dramatic to play out, it sort of kills it. That, being coupled with how on the nose the messaging can be, barely dilutes away from the cascade of momentum built up in the final act.
As March is Woman’s History Month, I found it both enlightening and intriguing that Turning Red just so happened to be coming out this soon. I may be the wrong audience for what this movie is intended for, yes, but the most important thing to take away is that I was 13 once and discovered things about my hormones and identity such that I’m still deciphering and trying to piece together. Even in this instance, this movie relates to anyone who’s has or still is going through it and slowly coming to terms with their independence.