Soul (2020)
December 25, 2020 6:42 PM - Subscribe

Joe (Jamie Foxx), a musician who has lost his passion for music is transported out of his body and must find his way back with the help of an infant soul (Tina Fey) learning about herself.

A new Pixar film streaming on Disney+.
posted by DirtyOldTown (35 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
“I’ve been messing with this team for years“ is absolutely hilarious.
posted by azpenguin at 10:08 PM on December 25, 2020 [11 favorites]


It was so, so good. I watched it by myself last night and cried through at least the last 20 minutes, if not more.

“It was the cat!”
posted by janepanic at 6:32 AM on December 26, 2020 [2 favorites]


Watched it and loved it. It’s incredibly refreshing to see a Pixar movie about adults, and avoiding their 2010s go-to crutch of making dads cry in theaters. I had some doubts for the first act and it took a very welcome turn with the entry of the cat. It did not turn out to be the humorous afterlife romp I had expected, and Joe’s life made a great framing. Visually, I see Pixar picking up some hints from Into The Spider-verse.
posted by migurski at 7:27 AM on December 26, 2020 [6 favorites]


It was soooo good. I love the bureaucracy of the soul-counters/carers + the passive aggressive tit-for-tat. I feel like this movie was really effective without being as ham-fisted as some of the other ones (inside out, Up). I also like that the cat is sort of ugly and doesn't necessarily lend itself to stuffed plushies. It was kind of hard to know the targeted age demographic for this, though.
posted by erattacorrige at 9:08 AM on December 26, 2020 [4 favorites]


The story and visuals were great. Loved it, was moved.

The casting choice of Tina Fey for 22 meant a big chunk of the film was a white woman inhabiting a black guy's body.

That was maybe not so great.
posted by emjaybee at 9:50 AM on December 26, 2020 [6 favorites]


Yeah I was thinking throughout the movie that this was pixar's answer to "it's a wonderful life" and that the choice to release on Xmas day was not an accident.
posted by erattacorrige at 10:05 AM on December 26, 2020 [2 favorites]


The casting choice of Tina Fey for 22 meant a big chunk of the film was a white woman inhabiting a black guy's body.

It felt like they tried to patch over that perception a bit by having 22 explain that she could use any voice and that she's using this one "because it's annoying", but yeah.

Did anyone else catch the "and at homes at least six feet apart" addition to the usual Pixar "made in Emeryville, California" credit?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:26 AM on December 26, 2020 [4 favorites]


It's also something to see a Pixar movie that so clearly takes place in our real New York in our world--there's not that odd abstraction that you get with the Toy Story movies or Finding Nemo. Even the Paris of Ratatouille didn't seem as much connected to Actual Paris (though happy to concede this point to any Parisians who feel differently) as it did a sort of postcard Cliffs Notes of Paris.

Setting the movie in something much more like the real world means that we can't as easily ignore the people in the background as figurines that fill their plot roles; because they're people like us, we know that every one of the people Joe talks to--the other barbershop customers, his students, his aunts at his mother's shop--they have lives and stories. It makes for a messier set of ideas around the central plot, but that's kind of the point, I think.
posted by pykrete jungle at 9:17 PM on December 26, 2020 [4 favorites]


Having an existential crisis right now because of it, tbh. But I definitely liked it, though the flaws inherent in having a white woman inhabit a black man's body for the bulk of the movie are significant and worth examining.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 11:10 PM on December 26, 2020 [1 favorite]


Should've taken place in Chicago instead of New York. Also a bit disappointed that the movie fell into the trap of having a black man as the main character but then making him not a black man for most of the movie, by first making him a cute marketable soul and then a cat. Spies in Disguise was also about a black man being turned into something else, but it still managed to let him be black for the bulk of the movie. I suppose we're supposed to be grateful that at least his black body is on screen, piloted by a white woman.

I liked the joke of the cat soul on the conveyor belt to the great beyond, but wouldn't that have further mucked up The Count? And wouldn't that have resulted in a dead cat at the end of the movie? Maybe one additional shot of "The Jerrys have the cat and are going to ensure it also ends up where it belongs" would have cleared that up.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:43 AM on December 27, 2020 [1 favorite]


I expected a final payoff where 22 got to be the cat. Her "I'm bored with everything you people think is so great" is exactly a cat's attitude as were her delights (the food, the smells, the twirly seeds).

Ultimately, I thought this film was mostly a retread of the themes of "Up" and "Inside Out", and a little soupcon of "Ratatouille", and lacked a lot of the humor and insight of previous Pixar movies. The much-vaunted storytelling prowess of the studio isn't really in evidence at all, settling for simple feel-good beats.
posted by briank at 8:33 AM on December 27, 2020 [2 favorites]


I liked the joke of the cat soul on the conveyor belt to the great beyond, but wouldn't that have further mucked up The Count?

Now I feel like they missed a joke of the cat just sitting on one side of the Door and refusing to go through.
posted by cheshyre at 11:16 AM on December 27, 2020 [10 favorites]


ISTR that there was a shot of the cat happily re-uniting with its hospital-worker carer.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:57 AM on December 27, 2020 [3 favorites]


I thought the original joke was that cats don’t have souls, which is how Joe ended up in that situation. The cat spirit on the conveyor belt was confusing. It might require a rewatch.
posted by janepanic at 12:42 PM on December 27, 2020


ISTR that there was a shot of the cat happily re-uniting with its hospital-worker carer.
Yes, there was.
And I've been looking around at what kind of merchandise Disney is selling for this movie, and "Soul Cat" is definitely a thing.
posted by cheshyre at 12:48 PM on December 27, 2020


Is...is The Great Before in EPCOT? Because it sounds a lot like Future World.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 3:32 PM on December 27, 2020


Visually, I see Pixar picking up some hints from Into The Spider-verse.

The art for this one was certainly pretty locked in before the other movie came out in 2018.
posted by sideshow at 8:52 PM on December 27, 2020 [1 favorite]


Either the cat soul also got off the escalator, or that was simply one life out of nine...
posted by happyroach at 9:53 PM on December 27, 2020 [2 favorites]


I enjoyed it - the little souls were cute, and it got away from that elite/exceptionalism thing that Pixar is prone to. There are things which give you a spark, but just being sensitive to the world around you is enough reason to be here.

But the whole thing about putting a white woman's voice in a black man's body is very off. Especially given the lack of representation for African-American people in mainstream films to begin with. I understand if people find it too much to get past.
posted by harriet vane at 6:41 AM on December 28, 2020 [3 favorites]


This movie seemed confused to me. The first half made me think that Joe Gardner was going to realize that his true purpose in life is to be a mentor - the message was so heavy handed I was kind of irritated that was where it was going. But then all of those themes were dropped, and the movie switched to living in the moment/enjoying the small things in life? I don't think they sold that message as well as they could have. Why have the scene with the student not quitting music? Or have his mother come around to supporting his dream, if he is going to be ultimately unsatisfied with the realization of that dream? Why have him sacrifice himself for 22 to live, only for the powers that be to immediately reverse that sacrifice?

I also don't love how the movie continually casts Joe as selfish and self-absorbed compared to 22. I can see that the point of the movie is his personal growth, realizing that more than just his dream matters to him and gives his life meaning (family, friends, experiences, etc.). But again, I think that could have been done better. I was ultimately frustrated by the choices it made.
posted by dinofuzz at 1:30 PM on December 28, 2020 [9 favorites]


The first half made me think that Joe Gardner was going to realize that his true purpose in life is to be a mentor - the message was so heavy handed I was kind of irritated that was where it was going. But then all of those themes were dropped, and the movie switched to living in the moment/enjoying the small things in life?

I was 100% certain that Joe was going to realize teaching was his true purpose and that it would conclude with him accepting a role as a "soul mentor" in the Great Before. The fact that it so obviously laid the groundwork for this theme and then didn't do anything with it seems less like intentional plot misdirection and more like vestigial bits of an early version of the screenplay that didn't get excised in later drafts.

I still really enjoyed the film and agree with harriet vane that it was nice to see a Pixar script that didn't read like another Brad Bird paean to the Nietzschean Übermensch.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:41 PM on December 28, 2020 [5 favorites]


I enjoyed it overall, especially since I'm really nostalgic for Before Times NYC content. I haven't set foot in W 4th St station since March. The jazz club seems to be a blend of Blue Note (logo) and Village Vanguard (layout)? I miss crowds. I'm sad now.

I found the resolution of Joe's conflict with his mother unsatisfying. He says he lives for jazz, and... that's it? Wasn't that already obvious to everyone? And then it turns out in the end that having one single purpose for living isn't the point, after all? His mother's concerns are never really addressed, either - she even tells him he "can't eat dreams", and everything with 22 is like... eating, enjoying material things, is actually really important?

At points it seemed like a white person was living a Black person's life even better than himself, especially the barbershop scene... the optics weren't great.

For a movie about music, I didn't find the music very memorable.

To explain the cat, they could've shown its soul slipping through the portal back to Earth after Joe - we see the cat running back towards its owner, but that on its own felt incomplete.
posted by airmail at 10:02 PM on December 28, 2020


Yeah Joe as a character doesn't make a whole lot of sense. He's a guy who is good enough at jazz piano to impress a famously aloof band leader (and impress her enough that she gives him a second chance despite showing up late) but isn't good enough to find any success on his own? Why does he have to choose between full-time teaching and playing jazz? Is his dream to play jazz or is his dream to be famous? He feels unfulfilled after playing a set with a famous jazz band and feels ambivalent about doing it more, so maybe Jazz isn't really his thing after all, despite having made a big speech stating otherwise.

I guess what he really wants to do is help other people have the same Jazz experience he did as a kid, but at no point in the movie does he seem to realize this and in fact he's consistently shown as being selfish and bad at connecting to others. He explicitly admits he doesn't know what he wants to do with his life at the end, it seems like the only lesson he learned was "be more mindful."
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:40 AM on December 29, 2020 [5 favorites]


Maybe I have lost someone too recently to watch this movie with the generosity it may deserve, but I kind of hated that the message was "He is so special, he gets a second chance." Does that mean that nobody else has gotten to be awesome and inspirational enough and they just die?

I did love the music, though, and the animation made me really want to go back into the city. It's been a while.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:02 PM on December 29, 2020 [3 favorites]


I liked this.
On the Tina Fey thing, I felt like I was watching a film where a Black man was trapped in the body of a cat while another soul (one yet to have the construct of race imposed on it) was in his original body. Rightly or wrongly it never occurred to me that a Black man was being voiced by a white woman because the Black man was voiced by Jamie Foxx throughout.
posted by chill at 1:19 AM on December 30, 2020 [3 favorites]


Yeah this was—for all intents and purposes—a body switch movie, which is a comedy subgenre with a long history and pedigree. The character of Joe was the main protagonist whose presence and voice dominated the entire film. He didn't disappear from the movie simply because 22's consciousness got plunked into his physical body.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:24 PM on December 30, 2020 [1 favorite]


Regardless of if 22 is a white woman or not, I think we can all agree she is not a black man. Joe is not meant to be someone who has his life figured out, but having things straightened out by letting a nonblack person live in his body for a day is at the very least extremely poor optics.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 3:23 PM on December 30, 2020 [2 favorites]


I guess what he really wants to do is help other people have the same Jazz experience he did as a kid, but at no point in the movie does he seem to realize this and in fact he's consistently shown as being selfish and bad at connecting to others. He explicitly admits he doesn't know what he wants to do with his life at the end, it seems like the only lesson he learned was "be more mindful."

I think it's more about the obsessions that we see driving lost souls. Joe has spent his whole life chasing a singular dream, and found transcendence sometimes in the chasing of it, but note that he goes "into the zone" while auditioning for Dorothea, but not when playing that "one in a hundred" show with her that night. It's not about whether he truly loves Jazz or not (clearly he does) or whether he likes playing with the quartet even (he definitely enjoyed it and was good at it) but in being so singularly focused, he's been missing things, and having grabbed that brass ring, he feels adrift.

Dez liked Joe before, but 22-as-Joe was asking Dez about his life and not being monomaniacal about Jazz for once. The student didn't really want to quit, but 22 (while being selfish herself) was accidentally validating the student's feelings and asking her stuff and, again, talking about stuff unrelated to Jazz, and got her through her crisis of confidence or whatever by fluke chance.

Joe could play a gig with the quartet every night, and enjoy it, and maybe he will! But it's not enough and not the point here. When Joe goes home to his piano, and is riffing not off of the sheet music but off of the memories 22 made in his body, he transcends again because he's playing with that "spark" of feeling life.

That's not to say that this arc was super clear throughout, of course. And the scene between Joe and his mom was weird for a couple of reasons (just storytelling-wise, it drops into Jaime Foxx's voice talking to the mom, with the cat just sort of staring agape during the monologue. So was this 22 taking over based on Joe's memories, and we're just getting the mom's perspective? It doesn't feel like it, but it doesn't seem like Joe-as-Cat continuing to feed 22 what to say either, and again, it feels like a Big Emotional Beat from some different, if similar, story going on there.

But I liked this. And holy hell, the New York of it all - the Village Vanguard, the 14th St. Station, the 7-Train rolling past Silvercup Studios at sunset, all of it - was finally what made it misty for me. I've been in exile from New York for the last six months of this pandemic and I needed a shot of it really bad. This did that gorgeously.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:11 PM on December 30, 2020 [7 favorites]


I really enjoyed it, problematic elements aside - the messiness and lack of clarity in the plot felt apt enough given the focus.

The 2d line art characters really reminded me of something, and I'm struggling to figure out what, likely a Sesame St. or Film Board Of Canada animation.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 11:38 PM on December 30, 2020


Did it remind you of this? That's the first thing that popped in my head when I saw them.
posted by wabbittwax at 1:44 PM on December 31, 2020


Definitely one of the things I think! I have seen those as a kid. Not *quite* what I'm thinking of as those are outlines, while the ones I'm thinking of use a single self-overlapping line to draw eyes and nose and mouth like a single piece of string, but definitely reminiscent. I'd love to know what the Pixar animators watched while working on it...
posted by Jon Mitchell at 4:43 PM on January 1


This article has concept art and talks about the process for choosing animation styles (very cool wire frames for the counselors!)
posted by geezlouise at 11:30 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]




Oh I came here to post that too! Interestingly, 22 was supposed to be the main character, then Kemp Powers came onboard and suggested a bigger focus on Joe. Which I think explains some of the bits I felt were awkward - they were trying to fix a problem without throwing away all the existing animation work that had been completed already.
posted by harriet vane at 2:00 AM on January 13


Pixar's troubled soul - Namwali Serpell:
Given the film’s philosophical bent, let’s try a thought experiment about it: Could “Soul” work in chromatic reverse? Could it be about a white classical musician’s body that is taken over by a grumpy black woman’s soul? What would a Great Beyond and a Great Before informed by black culture look like? Would greenish white be the right color for new souls? Would pitch-black be the right color for lost ones? Would the Beyond and the Before be on separate planes? Would soul counsellors be two-dimensional abstractions? Would Mystics Without Borders include an obeah woman or a bokor? Would people in a fugue state of flow float up to the spirit world, or would the spirits descend into them—ride them, as we say? What aesthetic possibilities would be opened up if the film played with a black cultural history of bodily possession?
posted by ChuraChura at 5:02 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


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