December 27, 2020
I didn’t think Pixar could top CoCo that’s how elite I felt that film was…but Soul really makes conversation as one of the best Pixar films…it’s that good.
Below are my thoughts on the film. If you haven’t watched it yet, be mindful that there are spoilers below.
1. First off. I love that this was a uniquely African American story. As someone who fell in love with Jazz in college, particularly being introduced to the genre by my White friend Jacob who admittedly schooled me in Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Nina Simone, Charles Mingus, Billie Holiday, Art Blakey and countless others. He opened my eyes (and ears) to a greater appreciation of America’s original art form. The same way Joe Gardner fell in love going to his first jazz set in a small dingy night club. I have to say my experience was eerily similar. That in of itself made this a personal film for me.
2. Pixar has incredible ability at tackling real human issues. For what it’s worth…Pixar does a remarkable job explaining life’s toughest questions, and breaking it down into really great digestible family entertainment. To be both moving and engaging regardless of age is really an incredible feat. In this film they tackle the “WHY” in people’s lives. The cleverly package it as finding someone’s ‘spark’ but undoubtedly it’s the “Why are we here question…” that fills the room in this film. Just on that alone it makes you pause and consider the ultimate question of your life’s purpose (more on that in a moment). Are we operating in that purpose or are we walking in the decisions of our life. There’s a distinctive difference in that analysis. Our purpose finds us whole, or decisions finds us calculated and in some form, just operating.
3. Joe in the movie thought his ‘spark’ was his incredible ability and love for music. However, the unique thing about his journey is that his spark was how he made his students feel about music and finding themselves. Whether it’s his 12 year old music student who is talented on the trombone. Or his former student who is now a drummer in a quartet and openly thanks Joe for being the only class that gave him interest and thus a path. Interestingly enough, he did the same thing with 22…in his own unique way. Honestly I was glad the movie went in this direction. I didn’t want the message to be that your spark was regulated to your unique talent or interest-but rather you finding purpose in your life. Whether that purpose is to inspire or create, your talent is just one vehicle to help you get to the ultimate destination of purpose. Speaking of which…
4. I found it interesting that 22 had all of these incredible ‘mentor-teachers’ but it was the middle school, middle aged, unremarkable teacher, who provided the greatest lesson. I believe that was intentional.
5. The Barbershop was undoubtedly my favorite. Number one. It highlights the unique relationship a black barber has with his client. The convergence of multiple personalities from all walks of life, all descend into one place. Engaging, riffing, and even providing deep thoughtful conversations. This literally happens in black barbershops across the country. Why do you think I go back every week for bald hair cut? It’s the community that is the most beautiful portion of the black barber experience. Just like in the movie, A Barber is a counselor, a friend and a motivational speaker with clippers, except his/or her speech doesn’t always come in the form of words-but a haircut. It’s amazing how a haircut changes ones self esteem and internal outlook…Speaking of Joe’s Barber.
6. I loved how he stated his ultimate desire was to be a veterinarian, but his purpose turned into him becoming a barber. Now true enough it was due to his life’s circumstances. But he explicitly stated that he was happy because he saw first hand how his life impacted everyone who sat in his chair. He was content.
7. What made Joe’s journey intriguing is how it encapsulates the idea of selfishness in ones own journey. Joe was so concerned with making it as a pianist in a jazz band, that he missed moments, ignored people (his barber remarked how Joe never talked asked about his life), and possibly isolated himself from the world. He was even willing to verbally assail 22 for wanting a life, simply because it infringed on his plans. The lesson being that if we are not careful, our one track mind can often have us leaving a wake bad intentions.
8. The truth is, most of us spend our entire lives searching for the ‘ocean’. It’s our tunnel vision of what we think our purpose is, that we fail to take in the environment or world around us. If you spend your life seeking a particular moment, then you might find yourself losing track of all the special moments in your life. I thought it was incredibly unique how they tied in being in the zone and obsession. Because quite frankly, if you’ve ever been in the zone, you will spend the entirety of your life trying to replicate that feeling, which could cause you to be obsessive-if you’re not careful.
9. If I were to be honest this film had me looking deeply into my life. It’s no secret to those who are close to me that I don’t absolutely love the law. Sometimes it can feel like literally a means to an end. The practice has a way of beating you down and draining you of your energy. Whether it’s the constant fight of the opposing counsel, or simply dealing with a hard client, or even worse a client who won’t pay their bills. After a while, it can sometimes be a bit too much. If you are not careful, one can become overly jaded by everything. However, every once in a while you find yourself becoming a blessing to one ‘small’ client who you’ve helped along the way. So no, it wasn’t some landmark Supreme Court case, or even a case that would send a tiny ripple in the legal community. But maybe…just maybe it was someone who you’ve kept out of jail-especially for a crime they didn’t commit, or someone who you helped set up estate plan-protecting their family financially for generations to come…or maybe…it’s someone who you helped create and set up their LLC-thus being a small part in their success journey. These moments matter, and if we are not careful, we can miss them focusing on the next ‘big case’ or searching for our ‘First Big Legal break’. Those big moments may never materialize, but it doesn’t mean your life (or their case) is any way shape or form less monumental. This lesson goes for anyone, not just those practicing law.
Between UP, Inside Out, CoCo and now Soul…Pixar simply doesn’t miss.