Summary: A princess thinks outside the box to defy her family’s customs of marriage.
I loved it! Yes yes, very pretty movie, the texture of the fabrics, Merida’s wild hair, also a non-traditional princess story, it’s very funny, good voice work, fun script, great soundtrack (Patrick Doyle!), made me cry a lot, and all of that.
I get the same sense from Brave as I did with Moana– an extremely rich movie in culture and themes, with a strong story about what it means to have responsibilities as a young woman. I didn’t quite burst into tears immediately as I did with Moana, but this is probably the most I’ve cried for an animated movie since that one. The only reason why Moana gets an A and Brave gets an A- is because you know how I feel about musicals.
Brave is the first movie in Pixar’s lineup that features a female protagonist. While I’m a bit disappointed at the uncreativity of selecting a “princess” role, it did jumpstart this whole trend of subverting what that is, so I’m not too mad about it. Instead of getting stories of princesses yearning for freedom outside their roles and ending up with a prince, we’ve been getting more stories about young women learning to manage their responsibilities and becoming great leaders. It’s a nice change. Still, I would like to see more stories about women or girls without the title of princess, navigating the world, and wanting to change it. It’s not just girls born into prestigious families who have duties, play a role in the bigger picture, and have to fight to change perceptions of what it means to be female- it’s all girls, all women, all day, every day. Let’s get that animated movie about an HR specialist who changes the office culture!
Anyway, I couldn’t help but fall in love with Brave. Pixar always does a great job of exploring family dynamics and yeah- in Disney princess movies, we don’t get to see the mother. Ever. I’m thinking of specific Disney moments where the princess is chastised by their father (specifically The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Mulan, Pocahontas), and compared to those, Merida’s conversations with her mother just have another weight to it. It’s easy for a father figure to dictate what a daughter should do because it’s usually a king doling out a command. It’s another meaning entirely to have princess arguing with her queen mother, who maybe tried to rage against the machine at a younger age and lost her own battle, or has her own reasons for complying with what’s expected of her. There is such a richness to the dynamic between Merida and Elinor (voiced by Kelly MacDonald and EMMA FREAKING THOMPSON) and a lot of this has to do with how well-paced the story is- for every two steps forward they take, they take one step back. It’s this back and forth that makes their relationship feel very tangible.
This relationship, combined with excellent use of suspense, lends itself to how powerful the ending is even though that ending is very blatantly explained. It was the exact opposite reaction I had when I realized the ending of Onward- I didn’t care that I knew the ending of Brave because I was so invested in the mother/daughter relationship. I just wanted them to get there so badly, wanting to see Merida and Elinor come to terms with who the other person is. I had such a sense of urgency, of needing to see the conclusion. Maybe the characters spoke to me more, who knows? But if I know the ending and I don’t care that I know because the road there is so entertaining, whether in humor or drama or visuals- I think that’s the mark of a very good movie. And Brave is a very, very, very good movie.