With all due respect to Palm Springs, Pixar’s Soul is the best movie to come out during the pandemic.
I’m still not quite sure how a media Death Star like Disney ended up producing one of the most internal, challenging movies I’ve ever seen and that dwells on subject matter that’s often way too difficult to confront (What is our purpose in life? How do you live a meaningful life? Why are the New York Knicks the way they are?). But I’m glad that they did, even if it reduced me to an existential puddle who also weeped openly about a character who is a talking cat.
Did the joke about the lost soul of a day trader hit entirely too close to home? You’re gosh darn right it did. And did I ball my eyes out during the final montage of the main character’s life? Hoo boy.
One of the things that has stuck with me most about Soul, however, is the idea of finding your spark. It feels so especially salient now, nearly a year into a pandemic that (at least for me) has caused me to go through entire life cycles of hobbies in search of my own (my sourdough starter ended shortly after the Trump presidency; I never did finish that 1,000-piece puzzle; I’ve been producing fewer and fewer listicles for this eminent newsletter, etc. etc.). And what about all of us who derive energy and inspiration from the very people we’re not able to see right now?
As awed as I was by Soul’s discussion of capital-D Difficult concepts about life, death, and the meaning we find in between, I think I got just as much out of its exploration of Joe’s love of jazz and what it means to pursue your ambition by immersing yourself fully in what brings you joy (and the ways in which that dedication can hamper other parts of your life). And on top of that, it was worth it just for the reminder to take a breath and look around you—which, in Soul, was a New York City that looked more real than any movie set in NYC that I’ve seen since Spider-verse.
So for me, Soul is on the Mount Rushmore of pandemic movies, right up there with Palm Springs and whatever else you happened to have streamed this year (Tenet? Chicago 7? Mank? Sure, go ahead, so long as it’s not The Midnight Sky). One month of Disney+ is worth it to watch Soul and then binge as many of the Mighty Ducks movies as you have the appetite for.