There are a hundred ways to measure what makes a great movie, but nothing speaks more highly about a film than how closely you can read it. In his feature, Deadshirt Editor-In-Chief Dylan Roth explores one of his favorite films by demonstrating just how much there is to talk about, writing at length about Every Five Minutes of runtime.
Written and Directed by Brad Bird
(c) 2004 Disney/Pixar
One Blonde Hair (46:03-47:01)
It’s an ordinary evening. Helen is hanging up some laundry in the closet of the master bedroom, when she spots something peculiar—a long, platinum-blonde hair clinging to one of Bob’s sport jackets. She plucks it off the jacket, and before she has time to even consider what it might mean, the phone rings. From the other room, Helen can hear Bob yelling “I GOT IT, DON’T ANSWER IT, HONEY, I GOT IT!” Her freshly piqued suspicion ratchets up. As Bob answers the call in his office, Helen quietly picks up the receiver in her bedroom, and hears only part of a conversation.
A WOMAN’S VOICE
How soon can you be there?
I’ll leave tomorrow morning.
The audience sees the other side of the conversation, in which Mirage explains that she has a mission for Bob, but Helen doesn’t hear that part, only the even more damning portion. Once the call is over, we cut to the office, where Bob, giddy with the opportunity to suit up as Mr. Incredible again, is about to spring out into the hall, but Helen is standing just outside of the door, catching the man off guard. Helen plays dumb, asking “who was that, honey?” Bob tells his most transparent lie of the film, saying that he’s got to leave for another conference. Helen knows she’s being lied to.
Thanks to the malleable nature of time in film, it’s suddenly morning and Bob is getting into his flashy new car to leave. Helen has sat with this notion that her husband is lying to her and possibly having an affair all night, but we’ve skipped that, probably because it’s hard to imagine Helen, who forty screen minutes ago was leaping off rooftops, lying silently next to a man she suspects has betrayed her. Instead, before Bob pulls away, she sheepishly tells him she loves him in the hopes that his response will assuage her doubts. He says “I love you, too,” and it’s true but not convincing, and Helen is left standing in the garage, possibly waving goodbye to her marriage.
Given the circumstances, Helen’s worry that Bob is cheating is entirely justified. In fact, the film doesn’t provide much evidence to the contrary. The audience is only provided with evidence that supports the idea that Bob is cheating on Helen with Mirage, and has to take it on faith that he isn’t. We see the platinum blonde hair on Bob’s jacket; we don’t see a shot earlier in the film where they’re standing close together, or any innocent moment that would explain how the hair got there. There are two likely explanations for this omission: either the filmmaker and studio couldn’t justify spending tens of thousands of dollars on a shot explaining how a single hair got onto the protagonist’s jacket, or they actively chose to keep us in the dark, to make us suspect along with Helen. Whatever the intent, the result is that we as viewers are left wondering just how badly Bob has betrayed his partner’s trust.
The Incredibles is very ambiguous as to the extent of Bob’s infidelity, but what isn’t in doubt is Helen’s feeling of helplessness, and how much she’s changed since her daring days as Elastigirl.
We cut to Mr. Incredible, wearing a shiny new red Supersuit, riding alone on a futuristic stingray-shaped aircraft/submersible. The robot pilot voice offers him a(nother) mimosa, which appears on demand right on the armrest of his space-age captain’s chair. That’s right, we’re cutting right from marital infidelity to daydrinking; this is an unusual children’s film.
We’re treated to a flyover/under the gorgeous Nomanisan Island, complete with futuristic monorail pods and an underwater hangar. Mr. Incredible is greeted by Mirage, who compliments him on his new suit. This interaction is not particularly flirtatious in the finished film, but in the screenplay it’s more, shall we say, Bondesque.
After the previous sequence with Helen, this exchange would come across not just as sexual but downright villainous, and that’s likely why it was cut. Mirage leads Mr. Incredible through the expansive compound to a well-furnished suite with a balcony overlooking the lush Nomanisan landscape. This interaction between Bob and Mirage reads as completely professional. She walks him in, tells him when and where his briefing will be, and leaves. Bob doesn’t look back. From this point on there is no indication that Bob is attracted to Mirage, though the same can’t be said of the reverse. In any case, Mr. Incredible is now more absorbed in the glamour of his accommodations, as he bounces a pear off his elbow and enjoys a snack on the balcony. As the screenplay puts it: “He could get used to paradise.”
E is for Evidence (48:50-49:51)
Helen is vacuuming the house when she notices a fresh set of stitches on Bob’s old Mr. Incredible Supersuit. It takes her half a second to figure out what that means: EDNA.
A moment later we see Helen on the phone with E, and the conversation is presented in one continuous, one-sided take. Helen tries to fly casual at first, but when E doesn’t recognize her by her civilian name, she’s forced to utter the word “Elastigirl” for what may be the first time in years. Edna immediately goes from zero to a hundred, steamrolling Helen as only Edna Mode can. Helen is flustered throughout the rest of the conversation and can barely get a word in edgewise. Holly Hunter puts in a great performance in this scene, which earns laughs but also says a lot about both Helen and Edna as characters. It’s possible that Helen was never particularly at ease around the hurricane of charisma that is Edna Mode, but certainly now that Helen has put away the part of herself that faced down death on a daily basis, Edna is a lot more intimidating.
Helen tries to ask Edna about her involvement in fixing Bob’s Supersuit, but instead ends up invited to see something at Edna’s estate. E answers none of Helen’s questions, but in her own way is about to crack this whole mystery wide open.
Next week: Bob’s dream collapses.