THE TAKE AWAY
By Kersley Fitzgerald
If you've read any other reviews about Brave, Pixar's anti-princess princess movie, you've got an idea how difficult writing a review is. Unless you've seen the movie, you don't want to know anything about it. But how will you know if you want to see it if you don't know anything about it? Never has there been such a dilemma since The Matrix (which I had figured out as soon as Neo woke up) or The Crying Game (which I never saw).
See Brave if you like princess movies. See Brave if you like The Hunger Games. See Brave if you're an adult who likes Where the Wild Things Are but know your kid will never understand it. See Brave if you wanted to like Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood but couldn't bring yourself to commit. See Brave if it's the end of summer, school is nowhere in sight, and your daughter (or son) is driving you crazy. If you haven't seen it, go see it, then come back.
Spoiler alert level one: you are warned.
This movie has even less romance than The Hunger Games. There is no male hero, really. A fun, nuts warrior-king for a father, but no man coming to the rescue at any level. (Okay, there are three young brothers.) Merida is a princess, and there are three princes trying to win her hand, but the movie's not about them. The movie's about Merida, who doesn't want them, and her mother, Elinor, who wants her to have one anyway.
The characterizations are authentic. Merida knows what she wants and won't knock off the attitude long enough to speak words instead of dramatic sighs. Her mom has been training her for duty, and it has been a very hard job. She had this daughter and knew that the political peace of the kingdom depended on her. She spent Merida's life training her to be who she needed to be for the kingdom. But her all-consuming strategic vision blinded her to Merida as a person. King Fergus is a loving dad, proud of all Merida is, but more skilled in keeping peace through war and war games than through politics.
Here's the big secret: "brave" doesn't refer to Merida. It has nothing to do with Merida's character arc. She was brave before, and she's brave at the end. The person in the movie that most needs to learn bravery is Elinor.
Is this idea still relevant? Do parents still need to be reminded to listen to their children and value who they are above their own expectations? Probably. I imagine this story will need to be told as long as there are parents.
Spoiler alert level two: don't pass if you haven't seen the movie.
Of course, Merida's character arc has to do with listening to and trusting her mom. That's too hard at this age. Yeah, it's hard at any age. The beauty of Brave is the immediate, visual, very real repercussions that will take place if Merida doesn't change her attitude. Her mom will be lost forever. I have friends with rebellious teenagers (and younger). No threat, no object lesson, no consequence will get through. I wonder if things would be different if their parents immediately and catastrophically suffered. In some cases, maybe not. We can all be extraordinarily self-absorbed.
In that, there's a very Christian theme. When we throw a royal fit and try to remake God into something more malleable, we hurt God by contributing to the cross, and we risk losing Him. It is only when we repent — change our minds about the appropriateness of our actions — and recognize His worth that we can be sure He will never leave.
Elinor gets her own biblical theme. She had part of Proverbs 31:25 down, but not quite all of it. "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come." There was no one more dignified in the whole kingdom than Elinor. But it was only when she learned to be strong that she could have confidence in the future, even if the future wasn't what she had carefully planned. Christian bravery is a little different than protecting your daughter from an ancient demon-bear, but it works in a similar manner. Women have a nasty habit of trying to control instead of resting in the internal strength and bravery God gives them. Elinor appeared dignified because she was dignified in her character. When she learned to be brave inside, she was able to let strength inform her actions.
I've read complaints that Brave starts out original and slides into Disney. Yet I can't think of a single Disney movie that expects so much from its heroine for her own sake and not for her man. And lest you're afraid Brave is a man-bashing movie, I didn't find that at all. King Fergus was a loving, devoted father, a hero to his country and his family. If he didn't fully understand the undercurrents of his teenage daughter's relationship with her mother, I don't think anyone could blame him!
Tags: Family-Life | Personal-Relationships | Reviews-Critiques
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