Soul Movie Review - It's A Jazz Jazz World Out There

Pixar continues to touch your heart, and this time, it aims for your soul. 

I am no expert in Jazz or music for that matter. Any random note — as far as it's soothing to my ears — will suffice. Although I may have a tough time dissecting the various notes, I can recognize if the music being played is coming from the heart of the performer. Anyone who has a chasmic passion for pursuing a field of their choice may have recognized themselves with the protagonists of Whiplash and La La Land. The same people will also find much to connect with Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) in the latest Pixar offering Soul, directed by Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc., Up, Inside Out).

Joe is a fervent jazz pianist and a part-time middle school music teacher. Well, strike that out because he is offered a full-time position now. This offer comes with extra benefits, including job security, medical insurance, and pension. These three are a dream, a luxury every mother (middle-class family) wishes upon her son. Libba Gardner (Phylicia Rashad), Joe's mother, is not different. After laying out middle-class facts (having a backup plan/reminding the amount of struggle taken to deliver education to the child), Libba frowns, "So you're going to tell them yes, right?" Her tone suggests a listen-to-me-or-I-will-kick-you-hard vibe. I am familiar with it. 

However, Joe wants to be on stage, and he reaches cloud nine when a phone call from one of his former students, Lamont Baker (Questlove), informs him of an opening in the quartet band of the famous jazz musician and saxophone player Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett). Joe goes in for an audition and impresses the hell out of everyone. "Back here tonight. First show's at 9:00. Soundcheck's at 7:00. We'll see how you do." briefs Dorothea to a gleaming Joe. The following scene teases us with near-death encounters as Joe escapes a pile of bricks, traffic, banana peels, and nails. The score is cheery, and the man walks elated with an offer of a new gig. What do you know? Within the next second, he falls down a manhole—cue death.  

We find him again in his soul avatar shrunk in size and colored in blue, heading towards the Great Beyond. This Great Beyond looks enchanting, with stairs leading to a big ball emitting white light. The appeal lies in its simplicity. Joe is not ready to float inside the ball and starts running in the opposite direction. In his attempt to escape, he falls down in the Great Before. How hypnotically this fall is rendered. Someone knows how to animate the right way. The Great Before is a counseling place where unborn souls are matched with their mentors (or soul mates) who help them find their spark. A spark represents a purpose. It is the final blank required in the badge of traits, after which the new souls are given the pass to enter the Earth. 

Remember, when I mentioned something about connecting with the movie? Joe is assigned to train 22 (Yes, that's the name, and she is voiced by Tina Fey). And 22 is also my current age! Given this and how Soul deals in the struggle (family pressures) one faces to achieve their dreams and how initially one is lost and filled with doubts, I began to see my reflection in the film. There is a trance state known as "the zone" where vehement humans, consumed in their work, make an appearance. We also have a room consisting of snapshots of the life you lived. What a beautifully imagined world this is, straight out of a children's book. Fortunately, you don't need to be a toddler to appreciate Soul. This movie will speak to any adult who has ever dreamed of becoming something (or is dreaming) while the kids will revel in its dreamy animations—a win-win situation for the whole family. 

Of course, after a few hours, when all the emotions dry up, and you reflect back on Soul, you will find it possessing a basic structure: A central protagonist finding the meaning of life through a devil-may-care character, who is 22 in Soul. One's carelessness, free-spirited attitude enables another to carefully examine the details of everyday routine life. 22 getting absorbed in a song coming from a man at a station, 22 pausing to look in a mirror after a haircut, and 22 observing a student giving it all to her music act like little puzzle pieces that come together, in the end, to open Joe's eyes, inspiring him to live in the moment. There is a message in here favoring practical education over theoretical one that makes itself very, very clear by being too on the nose. But by the end, this 22 was moved enough to stick to his dream. In a nutshell, Soul did what it wanted to do: Inspire (also, the music is soul touching). Although, it will be interesting to visit Soul in the future to evaluate whether it worked now because of the timing (releasing as hope in one of the darkest times) or my age and situation. Will it transport me again to "the zone?" Only time will tell.            

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from Movie Reviews https://moviesinmydna.blogspot.com/2021/01/soul-movie-review-its-jazz-jazz-world.html
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