Thursday, June 11, 2009

Two thumbs Up

I've always believed that the best kids' movies are just as appealing (if not more so) to adults as to kids and so, despite not having any kids of our own as an excuse, we have braved the hordes at the local Cineplex several times over the past several years to see some of the best kids' movies, including "Wall-E" last year, "The Incredibles" a couple of years ago, "Toy Story," "Enchanted," and even "Freaky Friday" with Jamie Lee Curtis & Lindsay Lohan in the role I remember Jodie Foster playing when I WAS a kid.

I had heard the new Pixar movie "Up" was very good. Then I read, in Pamela Jeanne's blog, that it included an infertility/childless angle. I was intrigued. So we decided to go see it on opening weekend. (Both 3-D & non-3-D versions were playing at our local cineplex -- the 3-D version was sold out, and we really didnt' care anyway, so we went to the regular version. Probably a wise choice, since there were already more than enough toddlers in the audience -- not to mention their parents, with BlackBerrys & cellphones annoyingly glowing in the dark, despite the request to turn them OFF that came with the coming attractions.... grrrrr.....).

Before I get into the movie itself, I should warn you that there's actually a short that precedes it. (Yes! an actual short/cartoon feature -- which used to be a regular thing at the movies, when I was very young...). I couldn't believe my eyes when I realized it was about... STORKS. And how babies are made (in the clouds, of course!!). That was one "eek" moment. The story follows one particular little grey cloud cloud who, shall we say, is having trouble in the babymaking department, & feeling, shall we say, inadequate? Not an infertile cloud, mind you, but while the other clouds are effortlessly popping out adorable human babies & lambs & kittens, etc., this one is coming up with crocodiles & snakes that present challenges for the dogged stork assigned to deliver them. In the end, I was laughing, but I felt sorry for the little cloud all the same.

The movie proper finally started. And even though I had been forewarned of the plot premise in advance, and had a rough idea of how the first 10 minutes of the movie would evolve, I was not prepared for the emotional wallop it packed.

The opening introduces us to Carl & Ellie as children, and shows us how they met. Then, wordlessly, we follow them through the next 60 years, from their marriage, through what seems to be either a miscarriage or a diagnosis of infertility, through the years as they grow old together, to Ellie's death. It's an amazing, moving, perfect little piece of filmmaking.

And it made me bawl. Seriously. I was trying not to cry TOO loudly (because there were children all around me), but it took enormous effort to suppress my sobs & I was shaking like a leaf. At the same time, my dh was squeezing my hand so tightly I thought he was going to crush a bone. Once I pulled myself together, I had to take my glasses off to clean them because they were so waterlogged, I could not see the screen. Had to bring out the Kleenex again toward the end of the movie. I should add that besides being involuntarily childless, I'm a scrapbooker, and there is a scrapbook that figures prominently in key points in the plot.

Despite the tears -- I thought it was an absolutely wonderful movie, for so many reasons. Obviously, being involuntarily childless, dh & I couldn't help but relate to the characters of Ellie & Carl. Their emphasis on the "adventures" they would have together made me smile because, although dh & I have never wanted to go to South America, whenever we're going somewhere new, one of us is likely to say, "A new adventure for Sammy & Lori!"

And, as childless woman, I appreciated the movie's message hugely -- that it's possible to have a full & happy marriage without children -- and that you don't necessarily have to go to Paradise Falls to find adventure -- there may be adventures to be had in your own backyard, if you know where to look. Kind of reminded me of "The Wizard of Oz" in that respect. (I can remember bawling my eyes out as a kid when the wizard took off in his balloon from Oz to go back to Kansas, leaving Dorothy behind.)

Melissa of Stirrup Queens just wrote a wonderful review of "Up" on her BlogHer blog, including links to other posts about the movie (this post is an expansion of my comment there). I had no idea that some parents were objecting to the suggestion of miscarriage in the opening. I have a feeling they're probably making a bigger deal out of it than most of their kids ever will. I'm sure the kids will be focused much more on the adventure itself, Kevin the colourful, chocolate-eating bird, and the talking dogs. (There's a sequence with dogs playing poker that's taken straight from the classic picture -- dh & I totally cracked up, but I think we were the only ones in the entire theatre who got the joke.)

I have read some IF blogs & message board posts in which people said they would not go to see the movie because the subject of infertility/pregnancy loss & childlessness hit too close to home. I can understand that -- and that maybe I'm in a different place now than someone who is still going through infertility treatment -- but I would encourage people to see the movie. You should definitely bring some Kleenex -- but ultimately, I think the message of "Up" was uplifting.

Have you seen the movie and, if so, what did you think?


  1. Oh, I don't think I can watch that movie. Sounds as though it would be too much for me. I'm really glad you liked it, though.

  2. I haven't seen the movie, but I can understand why it would be so deeply moving to see a version of your story--so often ignored and untold--made beautiful on screen. I'm really glad this message is out there. The film sounds really fun.

    Two things in your post surprised me: that people would have a problem with this depiction as too scary for kids (oh come on peeps, turn on the tv and see what your children absorb. And m/c and loss are parts of life and kids don't need to be sold a bill of goods about that), and that people would sit there using handheld devices during a movie they paid ten bucks to see. Just bizarre.

  3. I skipped most of your post regarding "Up" because I can't wait to see it and worried you wrote something that would reveal too much ;-) I'm so glad it was as great as I anticipate!

  4. I am actually thinking about going back and seeing the 3D version. We saw the normal version.

    I also loved the idea in the movie that you can't always force adventure/family building/things to happen, but sometimes, they come to us when we least expect it. He gets the great adventure not from the choice he made (moving the house) but the unexpected twist (the bird). And he doesn't get the child he thought he would have with Ellie, but he parents the boy.

    I really loved the film and I am planning to buy it when it comes out on DVD in hopes that they have a section with commentary that might speak to the Pixar people's experience with IF. Because they really got it right.

  5. Can't wait to see it! Actually, I think I'll grab my sister and drag her to it this weekend if possible! I'll be back to tell you what I thought. I'm positive I'll cry but I absolutely love kids movies like this (Wall-E was wonderful!). Thanks for the review :)

  6. I haven't seen it (I haven't seen any new movies since "Pineapple Express," blech), but D. really wants to. I am planning to bring a box of Kleenex, as advised.

    Any parent who objects to a hinted m/c or infertility needs to take a good look at what their children are seeing every day in Disney movies. And I cried my eyes out at the cowgirl's montage in Toy Story 2.

  7. I loved the movie. I was really glad someone told me about the scene in the doctor's office or I'm sure I would've bawled like crazy, but since I knew what to expect I managed to keep it to a quiet little cry. Heck, i was tearing up during the short about the storks!

    And as far as kids seeing it, well my son has been through 2 of our 3 miscarriages with us (the first was before we had him) so I really don't see how depicting that in a movie in the way they did was anything other than true to life. Besides the fact that as a 3 year old I'm sure he didn't understand what was going on other than the woman was sad and crying.

    I really loved the scene with the scrapbook near the end, where he realizes that Ellie did feel like she had the adventure of a lifetime just by being married to him. That part made me tear up too.

    I think the movie was really powerful in many ways.

  8. I've not seen the movie, but your post does interest me in it. I had not really paid any attention to any of the commercials/articles about it.

    Thanks for your kind comment this week.

  9. Haven't seen it yet so I didn't read your whole review,I'll come back after...but I am with you on the blackberry/phone thing! People ned to learn how to take a break!!!!

  10. Yes. Great post. I loved this movie so very much, and I think it was very important for me to see it as we are continuing to travel our own road of infertility. I posted this briefly on Mel's blog, but I was also moved by the cloud short, in a way that made me cry when I reflected later. I want to be like that sweet, unfortunate stork, who still smiles and laughs when others receive good things, and continues to live life to the fullest he can with his own difficult (and undesired) circumstances.

    I'm very glad to read your take on this. I will definitely be buying the movie when it comes out, and I've even contemplated going back to see it in the theater again.

  11. I thought it was one of the best love stories that I have seen in years. My husband and I saw it on our anniversary and it was the perfect movie (even though parts of it hit close to home).

  12. I am really keen to see this but haven't made it yet - I will try to go this coming weekend. It's great to hear that you and so many other people whose opinions I truly respect thought that there was so much to this movie and that they really got it right - I am always happy to see the usually untold stories told well and with compassion, and it sounds like that's exactly what this film does. Thanks for the review!

  13. I've had an interesting experience recently with children's movies. We went to see Ice Age right after seeing My Sister's Keeper because I wanted something to cheer me up. I didn't realize that Ice Age was all about the joys of motherhood and as I approach what should have been my baby's first anniversary (early miscarriage) I found Ice Age devastating and not at all the antidote to My Sister's Keeper. Bad day.

    Conversely yesterday I went to see Up with a girlfriend yesterday and I was enthralled with the first part of the storyline as I hope to have that journey with my beloved husband since we won't be having children. But my girlfriend who went with me is going through some terrible times with her husband who has moved out and is unlikely to move in again. She found the movie depressing because she'll never grow old with the man she thought she was supposed to.

    It's all a matter of where we are in life's journeys, but I've come to a resolution to read anything I can about children's movies because they sometimes aren't the "pick me up" that we want them to be for assorted reasons.

    Thanks for the great post.