Tangled gets grieving straight
It's not exactly a newsflash: the new Disney/Pixar movie will make you cry! But it's true, and as with everything Pixar, there's a heart inside that surprises you no matter what you expected.
Tangled is a hyped up, postmodern retelling of Rapunzel that, unlike nearly everything else in Hollywood, gets grief right.
The core of the tale begins when an infant girl with magic hair, born to doting parents after a difficult pregnancy, is kidnapped by an evil witch. One with marvelous hair, a worthy competitor … the witch's salt and pepper coils are depicted with nearly as much lush pleasure as the princess's pristine and glowing acres of flax. (Magically renewed, the witch looks tight and a little overdyed to me. A statement, to me, from a studio that can make any magic.)
Every year on their lost child's birthdate her parents — a flawless and kind King and Queen — release a paper lantern in her honor.
The sky lantern ceremony is beautiful and magical in a way that only the simplest things — a candle, paper, and the night — can ever be. As the King's subjects hand up thousands of lanterns to follow the first, no eye in the theater was left dry. This meant my 6 year old was pounding on my thigh to stop crying mommy for chrissakes.
And now I feel, in a way, that I've actually been to a lantern ceremony of remembrance (they're used for weddings, too). Cartoon or not, this event is moving and also just. And as I smell the popcorn, I am reminded that this is a fairy tale, and why we have them: so we have something to look up to.
Because in this kingdom, the King and Queen's tears are honored each year, even at number 18. No one tells them to get over it or stop dwelling in the past. This village celebrates the life of a princess it barely knew with mead, flowers, and dancing in the streets, and closes with a sad sharing of hearts. And the ceremony itself — the lanterns bobbing in the night air, above water — brings together earth, sea, and sky. What else should ritual do but unite things larger than we are with our simple "here" selves?
Tangled contains the most moving, emotionally generous ritual of remembrance I remember in any American movie, and within a story that's entertaining, rich, and appropriate for families with kids of many ages (including a lot of boys, I am told -- the 10 year old boy with us cried, too.)
While it may be wonderful for others living with grief, I hesitate to recommend Tangled to families who have been through childloss. In addition to the fairy-tale ending (the child is not dead!) there is also an emergency rescue of a pregnancy that's important to the plot. I'm not sure the tears and emotional satisfaction of the lanterns justify going through all the other triggers.
Babylost friends, what do you think? Did this movie "work" for you at all, did it help you, was it true? Or is the general grief message just that?
ADDENDUM: I'm a dolt. I forgot that someone imporant DIES and then comes back to life. This could be a trigger for any widow, especially with a loss from violent crime. I mean, it IS a cartoon, but if I'm going to take one scene seriously....
Tags: movie reviews