Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Peter T Chattaway

Brave

Recommended Posts

I can agree with that. Actually, that's kind of the point of my somewhat hyperbolic comments here. The mother isn't humanized nearly to the extent Merida is, and as a result the movie's payoff is very badly warped.

Put another way, I don't have a problem with the movie Brave wants to be. I do have a problem with the movie it winds up being, and my discontent with that movie gets more intense the more I think about it.

Edited by NBooth

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

SDG said:

:In Merida's pre-spell present, her mother is only presented as a nag (with a single humanizing moment of regret, unseen by Merida, over an act of anger involving Merida's bow).

So, to me, Merida's unsympathetic behavior is part and parcel of what I think the movie is at its center and what it should be, whereas Elinor's unsympathetic behavior is too one-sided to my tastes and undermines what I think the movie ultimately wants to be about—in part, certainly, because Merida's unsympathetic behavior doesn't threaten our sympathy for her as a character, whereas Elinor's unsympathetic behavior does.

It might be interesting to note that after the film my wife mentioned how she had been more sympathetic to Elinor in some ways. Early on in the film she thought that Merida was too much of a "brat".

I was pretty much equally sympathetic to both of them, and also a little with the father who it seemed had to play the part of dispelling the tension from time to time. Although he was usually such a jovial good natured character that it didn't really seem to phase him.

I'm not sure why I had equal sympathy for Elinor, but I think it might have been due to the beginning scenes, and her interactions with her husband. There was also the way her husband treated her, he genuinly loved her and saw care concern and kindness in her. That helped me a bit. Also the fathers interaction with the two of them portrayed a loving family (at least to me), where Elinor rolled her eyes at Merida and her Dad's antics....... but still allowed it. The daughter and father also felt free and comfortable to be silly at times.

Merida certainly viewed Elinor as a nag, but there was also a freedom (and a fondness at times?) there, related to the response of someone who had been treated well enough to trust that they could be open with their parents. I'd think that Elinor must have been a loving parent in some ways because Merida wasn't scared of her (as an emotionally abused child might be), and still had plenty of self esteem and spirit, could approach her randomly without trepidation, and could be playful with her father around Elinor. Whearas if Elinor was completely miserable all of the time Merida would probably be a very different person. Even the scene where Merida was talking near the horse implied that she had the impression that Elinor was at least somewhat caring towards her.

I think Elinor's nagginess was also deflected for me a bit because it was often played has slightly comedic. Plus after she became a bear the "raise the child to be a princess" side of her became less important, and we began to see another part of her, that I think was quietly there all along.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can agree with that. Actually, that's kind of the point of my somewhat hyperbolic comments here. The mother isn't humanized nearly to the extent Merida is, and as a result the movie's payoff is very badly warped.

Put another way, I don't have a problem with the movie Brave wants to be. I do have a problem with the movie it winds up being, and my discontent with that movie gets more intense the more I think about it.

I had started writing my last post before you had posted yours, and therefore missed it.

I agree that the mother isn't as humanized as Merida (being also not the main character). I guess I found enough humanity in her that I saw no real disconnect with what the film wanted to be, compared with what it actually was.

Edited by Attica

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Attica wrote:

: I agree that the mother isn't as humanized as Merida (being also not the main character).

Here, perhaps, is another reason that the movie should have kept its original title, The Bear and the Bow.

Incidentally, the comments some people have been making about the unsatisfying coda, with its how-relevant-are-they-really remarks about "bravery", are reminding me of the reaction that many people had to the coda at the end of I Am Legend (where the film had to justify its use of the word "legend" in the title, despite the fact that the movie had utterly changed the whole *point* of that title in the original book; and, just to complicate things even more, the filmmakers heavily re-shot the ending shortly before releasing the movie to theatres, so the coda, too, was a last-minute rush job).

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can agree with that. Actually, that's kind of the point of my somewhat hyperbolic comments here. The mother isn't humanized nearly to the extent Merida is, and as a result the movie's payoff is very badly warped.

Put another way, I don't have a problem with the movie Brave wants to be. I do have a problem with the movie it winds up being, and my discontent with that movie gets more intense the more I think about it.

I am almost here. But, I saw a slightly different movie. It was tragic for me. I grew up in a family that altered my mother into a different person (stress of having four boys). I saw this as a film about the choices we make that alter or derange the course of life of those connected to us in a nuclear family setting. When the mother, as lovely and wise as she is, becomes something terrible and "other", I lost it. Pixar did very, very well at animating that immensely complex set of emotions involved with being a parent that has been broken. There was something terribly autobiographical here.

And... the highlands. The green and the gold. There is a park in Dunfermline that is dead close to the forest around those stones. I watched this with my daughter, born mere miles from those forests. Those landscapes are spot on.

My daughter and I went out for lunch after watching this, and I asked why the movie was called: Brave. We talked about how there is no fear in love, which is only apprehended by a willingness to listen and even (gasp): submit. Mothers are spectacular.

Edited by M. Leary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had an easy time sympathizing equally with the mother and the daughter. I don't think the film gave me equal reason to sympathize with both, and therein lies, I think, a defect in the film, but I was never in any doubt as to the equality of my sympathies.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I suspect I should not have read through this thread...what with not having seen the film yet. :)

Edited by Nezpop

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love you guys, but sometimes you all really psychoanalyze the **** out of parts of a film that were never intended to have the meaning behind them that your discussion implies. No, the film does not ever justify the use of the spell - the warnings about it are evident from the beginning. No, there is absolutely nothing in this film that even hints of our being able to equate arranged marriage with rape (first, there is no way that's the same thing, and second, it's duty, loyalty to family and country, and political diplomacy that motivated the arranged marriages of nobility in the Medieval Ages). And finally, no, I don't see how this film is short-shrifting the mother in the story. From the beginning, how is it not immediately evident that she loves and cares for her daughter? She's playing with her, protecting her, warning her and telling her stories.

This is a beautiful little film in a year that has given us family fare of ... of ... well, I guess Big Miracle, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, The Pirates! Band of Misfits and Madagascar 3. What else? The Hunger Games? Mirror Mirror? Other than The Avengers or The Secret World of Arriety (from the year 2010), there's been nothing that I'd want to take any children to see for the last 6 months.

Then Pixar comes along and gives us something like this. I think we should treasure it. The story gives us a fairly wonderful family. The father is a hyper-masculine, fighting Scots king who can turn around at a moment's notice and act with love and tenderness towards anyone in his family. He knows his wife intimately enough to tease her, to listen to her, to comfort her when she's upset about her daughter, to notice when she's trying to hide being upset, and to regularly control himself for her sake. The mother is strict as her daughter grows older, but the film keeps giving us moments that show us that her being strict distresses her (and that she's doing it because of what she believes being part of the royal family means). Merida is spirited, lovely and could probably kick the ass of any other Disney princess. Like Dash in The Incredibles, the three sons are a delightful source of comic relief. The brawling Scottish clans are just as fun, and I didn't realize it before, but the leading trio is voiced by Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson and Robbie Coltrane.

At the end both mother and daughter both specifically decide that they are willing to sacrifice themselves for those they love. Merida is about to put the good and traditions of her family & country over that of her own self-will. Elinor commits multiple acts of self-sacrifice for her daughter.

Unsatisfactory? It was a much better film than the trailers for it led me to believe it would be. It's another Pixar film that makes being in a family into a joy and an adventure.

Edited by Persiflage

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Converging agreement, Persiflage, with one qualification:

And finally, no, I don't see how this film is short-shrifting the mother in the story. From the beginning, how is it not immediately evident that she loves and cares for her daughter? She's playing with her, protecting her, warning her and telling her stories.

Believe me, I would love to agree unconditionally with this -- I went into my second screening hoping to be able to affirm this -- but I can't quite.

The playful, tender opening sequence takes place in Merida's childhood past. Once we get to Merida's teenaged present, the mother-daughter relationship is presented solely in terms of correction and conflict. Later on we get a flashback to another tender moment during a thunderstorm -- but again, it's in Merida's childhood past.

Yes, Elinor cares about Merida, but there's no positive interaction between them in the present tense until after the transformation. Doubtless, too, her Elinor's correction is fundamentally motivated by love and is for Merida's good, but that's not enough for a healthy relationship. And while Elinor can't make a healthy relationship happen by herself, at least I'd like to see that she's trying.

Putting the best face on it that I can, perhaps what we see in that first actis the mother-daughter relationship as Merida perceives it. Yet without any other hint of something better in their present relationship, Merida's climactic acknowledgment that her mother has "always been there" for her doesn't connect in the way I would like to the period of Merida's previous frustration.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Brave Is Bad Storytelling for Boys and Girls!

In the new Pixar movie Brave, the core of the problem starts with a weak and unsatisfying story about the relationship between a mother and her daughter. In all its marketing, Pixar has done a marvelous job hiding the main conflict of the film. I won’t wreck it here. Let’s just say that this film is a modern Disney princess story, along the lines of The Little Mermaid. The parent-child relationships and the child’s rebellion are all familiar. There is absolutely nothing groundbreaking in the premise of this film. The moments of tension and the conclusion are utterly predictable once the central canard is revealed. (From a marketing point of view, Pixar has been very wise to hide it.) The only real difference between this princess film and other Disney princess films is the lack of a Prince Charming. But this story isn’t about a girl and her prince. It is about a princess and her mother. So the lack of a romance isn’t really that groundbreaking either. This isn’t a romance film.

Manohla Dargis has an excellent review of the film in The New York Times which explains why the mother-daughter story doesn’t work either. That really isn’t my point. As a man, what bothered me as I watched it with my ten-year-old daughter was that all the girl empowerment in this weak film came by pushing down the men.

You don’t have to look any farther than this trailer to see that men in the film are portrayed as incompetent, uncouth, and ill-mannered, with no more care in the world than their own personal glory or the glory of their clan. I don’t have a problem with any given man being portrayed in this light. That is just good characterization. Some men can and do behave in this manner. My problem is that these characteristics are applied to almost every man in the film. In this way, they become characteristics of the male gender, rather than traits of some individual men.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Brave Is Bad Storytelling for Boys and Girls!

You don’t have to look any farther than this trailer to see that men in the film are portrayed as incompetent, uncouth, and ill-mannered, with no more care in the world than their own personal glory or the glory of their clan.

This is not really accurate, right?. A. The wee brothers are certainly not depicted as incompetent. They are ill-mannered, but brimming with the kind of competent vigor that made their father chief of the clans. B. The film comes to a hilt in a recitation of stories of military competence, bravery, and self-sacrifice - which subverts their reliance on personal glory. C.

The central antagonist in the film seems to use his last spectral appearance as a man thanking those who have fought him for his release, in recognition of his epic failure - which I found both surprising and clever in that it further emphasizes the film's claim that masculinity is more about loyalty and bravery than it is about the will to power.

The men in the film are the primary source of comic relief, but the conclusion of Merida's narrative also involves a re-estimation of what masculinity entails.

I dread parsing this so finely, as I do like Darghis' description of the mother as the most complicated character in the film. But the father is too. I almost felt sorry for him in that structurally, Pixar had no other choice to depict him in such outlandish terms.

Edited by M. Leary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I thought the father's relationship with Merida was one of Brave's strength. They get along and understand one another in a way that most father-daughter relationships in movies don't have. That's partially because she's a tomboy, of course, but I think there was more to it than even that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah. Me too too

They had some fun with the father (and the other Clan chiefs), but there were certainly places where these characters were portrayed as wise, heroic, dignified, and even caring.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Spoilers, spoilers

I just got back from a family trip, during which I saw Brave — finally.

The movie looked good, and showed technical advances over previous Pixar efforts. (Merida's hair is particularly striking, and was visually quite the star of the movie.) However, looks aside, the movie had two major flaws that I thought weakened it greatly.

First, even at just 93 minutes, the movie felt long. If we compare it Finding Nemo, Pixar's previous parent-child conflict story, Nemo gets to its pivotal separation scene quickly, and the main story that follows is constantly enlivened by new characters and new locations. By contrast, Brave introduces all its characters and all but one of its locations early, which both delays the arrival of the pivotal transformation scene, and leaves the movie with little in the way of novelty to energize the rest of the movie.

Second, the movie tries to get both humor and pathos from the transformation of Elinor. This is a tricky thing to do — the one can bleed into the other, with the unintended effect weakening or destroying the intended effect. While difficult, it is not impossible: Finding Nemo does it with Dory's memory, which is played for comedy almost the entire movie, until it turns and plays it for pathos and drama near the end. Turning the audience response, however, is done only once in Nemo and is done at a critical point in the story — and after viewing Dory's plight in a more dramatic way, we are never asked to view it again as pure comedy. Brave, however, keeps going back and forth between the two, and at almost random intervals. We never know from moment to moment whether we are supposed to find Elinor's situation funny or sad, hindering our ability to feel either way.

There is one area where I think Brave is worth defending: It has a real moral issue at its heart, and isn't just another example of that familiar family film, the story of the child Who Wants to be Herself vs. the Parent Who Just Doesn't Understand (or, more grandly, the Society That Just Doesn't Understand). In that familiar template, conflict creates a crisis, which the child resolves through skill and courage, earning the understanding and acceptance of the parent (or society). Essentially, the standard template is all about gratifying the desires of the child — a story that is obviously, well, gratifying to those identifying with the child.

Brave isn't about that.

The story is much more even-handed because it doesn't put all the right on one side and the wrong on the other. The central conflict is between Elinor's efforts to install in Merida the sense of responsibility to others that Merida will need to be a mature adult (and need even more to be a good ruler), and Merida's desire to define the shape of her own life.

The first act is driven by the rigidity of both Elinor and Merida, setting a pattern of escalating conflict between them. What brings things to a head is the attempt at an arranged marriage that has been the traditional means of keeping the peace in the kingdom. This attempt brings out all the worst in both Elinor and Merida. Elinor simply attempts to force the matter through, with no finesse or consideration of alternatives at all, and Merida sabotages it in the most public way possible with no thought whatsoever of the consequences for the kingdom.

As the adult in the story, it is fitting that it is Elinor who is the first to climb down and look for a way out. Where force of personality failed, imagination succeeds and she comes up with a way to preserve the peace of the kingdom without forcing Merida into marriage. Merida's concession, although later, is the more profound in that it meant accepting her mother's primary point, that she had to accept responsibility; not, as she comes to learn, in the sense of an onerous moral burden, but as the natural result of what love as an adult, rather than love as a child, is all about.

Overall, Brave is a good example of what is known in ethical philosophy as moral optimism: the belief that everyone can pursue their own happiness without conflict arising as a necessary result of that pursuit. (This doesn't mean that conflict doesn't occur in fact, only that such conflict is evitable, and the result of error or failure of imagination, rather than a necessity.) The conflict between Elinor and Merida is evitable: on Elinor's side it is caused by lack of imagination, and on Merida's by her failure to account for the importance of the happiness of others as indispensable elements in her own happiness.

In this, Brave is certainly a Good movie, it is just a shame that it isn't a better movie.

Edited by bowen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Second, the movie tries to get both humor and pathos from the transformation of Elinor. This is a tricky thing to do — the one can bleed into the other, with the unintended effect weakening or destroying the intended effect. While difficult, it is not impossible: Finding Nemo does it with Dory's memory, which is played for comedy almost the entire movie, until it turns and plays it for pathos and drama near the end. Turning the audience response, however, is done only once in Nemo and is done at a critical point in the story — and after viewing Dory's plight in a more dramatic way, we are never asked to view it again as pure comedy. Brave, however, keeps going back and forth between the two, and at almost random intervals. We never know from moment to moment whether we are supposed to find Elinor's situation funny or sad, hindering our ability to feel either way.

This this this. When my sister asked me what I thought, the most striking thing was how uneven it was. I couldnt get on board with the comedy because the situation was so dire, and if I was to grasp the comedy, the situation wouldn't get the weight it deserved. So frustrating.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, mixed reviews from the House family on Pixar's Brave. Timothy(10) and I loved it, but Karina and Evelyn (6) did not. It was too scary for Evelyn, and Karina disliked that all the men were silly and useless. She hates it when filmmakers forget that the genders both have strengths, and that they complement each other. I found the themes of bravery, destiny, and repentance to be very powerful, and the action was VERY exciting. I kept thinking I knew where the story was going, and I kept being wrong. I like that in a movie.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a terrific essay:

http://thenewinquiry...princess-movie/

Brave,” writes Christopher Orr, “is a rather conventional tale, with echoes of Mulan, The Little Mermaid, How to Train Your Dragon, and countless others. Like the flight of an arrow, its arc is swift but not hard to anticipate.” It’s a well-worn genre, the Spunky-Princess-Who-Doesn’t-Get-Married-(Or-Experience-Any-Attraction-To-Anyone)-And-Her-Mother story.

I wonder, though, whether any of the foregoing critics who’ve tolerantly yawned at Pixar’s latest effort could name a Disney princess besides Mulan whose mother is alive, let alone named.

[edit]Terrific is really an understatement. I've called lots of things terrific that weren't nearly as well done as this.[/edit]

Edited by bowen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

FWIW, I finally got around to writing up some thoughts that had been rolling around in my head comparing this film to Jane Austen's Emma.

Small hat tip (and shout out) to SDG for helping me formulate the frame for this mediation. Any errors in logic or judgment (or spelling!) are, of course, my own.

What is it about Austen’s work, then, that allows some readers to see a truly happy ending despite the novel’s steadfast refusal to unequivocally endorse one side of the social divide? Why does Emma seem to have at least the capacity to make both sides happy whereas Brave just ends up making both sides irritated? A partial answer may just be that at the current moment the poles of our social disagreements are farther apart and our rhetoric is more trained to be antagonistic from the get go. But I do think there are two qualities or themes in the narratives themselves that help engender this acceptance, two ways in whichEmma is just a superior narrative in recognizing complexity and developing its themes.
Edited by kenmorefield

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is one point about arranged marriage in Brave that is worth noting in the context of feminism: It is as much arranged for the sons of the tribal leaders as it is for Merida. Arranged marriages in this context aren't a problem of feminism per se, but of social order: nobody gets to choose. That's why the end of the arranged marriage for Merida is celebrated by the sons of the chieftains: her freedom is their freedom.

I will point out that in the history of arranged marriages, that it has by no means been true that only daughters suffered from it. I had a male coworker and friend from India who returned home to discover that his parents had (unbeknownst to him) found him a bride, and when he returned to the U.S., he did so as a married man.

if we look at Jane Austen's novels, we don't see the institution of arranged marriage in its full-blown form, but there is frequent parental pressure exerted against sons and daughters to make a suitable match: Edward Ferrars, Henry Tilney, Eleanor Tilney, Anne Elliot, Frank Churchill, Fanny Price, and Fitzwilliam Darcy are all characters who had the screws turned on them to choose spouses suitable to their parents (or parental figures). Also, in European history, generally speaking the higher the rank, the less personal preference has to do with marriage: Frederick the Great of Prussia, for example, was forced into a marriage by his father that he regarded as so dire that he considered suicide.

None of this is to say that the society in Brave (or in European history) is in any way gender-neutral, nor that the gender differentia were not heavily weighted against women in a broad range of areas. Only that arranged marriage, as an institution, had far less to do with men having control over women than parents over children.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Saw it again, this time in 2D.

I liked it much better the second time. IMHO, It looks better in 2D. Also, I just noticed and enjoyed a lot of subtler details, background activity, and lightning-quick humor that I'd missed the first time through. Elinor seemed a much stronger, more sympathetic character to me this time, even before the surprise. And the complaints I've been hearing from Facebook friends that "the problem with the movie is that men are made to look ridiculous" seemed... well... let's just say I don't understand that at all. Knowing the story this time, I could just bask in the glory of the animation and let my eyes wander to discover details I'd missed the first time.

Can't remember if I said this earlier: I think the shepherd from The Book of Kells makes a cameo in this. Or, at least, a Pixar version of him appears.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Stand Up for Yourself, and Mentor Others

Those of us left still standing need to keep standing to inspire. Women of my generation and older are the only figures that today’s young filmmakers have to look up to. I offer up a personal example: It has been a heartbreakingly hard road for me over the last year and a half. When Pixar took me off of "Brave" – a story that came from my heart, inspired by my relationship with my daughter – it was devastating.

Animation directors are not protected like live-action directors, who have the Directors Guild to go to battle for them. We are replaced on a regular basis – and that was a real issue for me. This was a story that I created, which came from a very personal place, as a woman and a mother. To have it taken away and given to someone else, and a man at that, was truly distressing on so many levels. But in the end, my vision came through in the film. It simply wouldn’t have worked without it (and didn't at one point), and I knew this at my core. So I kept my head held high, stayed committed to my principles, and was supported by some strong women (and men!). In the end, it worked out, and I’m very proud of the movie, and that I ultimately stood up for myself, just like Merida, the protagonist in "Brave." . . .

Brenda Chapman, New York Times, August 14

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know of any better place to put this: here's a beautiful article by Roger Ebert on "La Luna," which is definitely one of my favorite Pixar shorts.

Edit: Article is actually by "Michał Oleszczyk in Kraków," not Ebert.

Edited by Rushmore

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...