Monday, October 19, 2009

"Families are hard" . . .

I saw Where the Wild Things Are this weekend, and putting the film into words won't be easy. I'm going to give it my best shot, without too many spoilers. I think this movie is sort of like going to an art gallery; you can have fourteen people look at the same painting, and have fourteen different opinions about what the artist meant by the piece. This is just my feelings on it; you may see it and get something completely else out of the experience.

When I read the book for the first time, as an adult, I remember thinking, "This is about what it means to be a little kid. You rough house, play-pretend, and create an entire world in your bedroom where you get to be king and do whatever you want. Then, you get home in time for supper." Well, the film Spike Jonze has created is also about what it means to be a little kid, but it covers a lot more of that experience, and is a lot deeper and more profound.

Remember what it felt like to live in a world where everything was beyond your control? Where everybody told you what to do, and when they weren't telling you what to do, they were talking about things you didn't understand or just ignoring you? The Wild Things' Island is Max's escape from that, but it's like that world in microcosm: he goes there to get away from his sister, pulling away as she grows up, his mom, who ignores and scolds him, his life full of disappointments and loneliness. Max is a very lonely little boy. So, he goes to the island full of these Wild Things and declares himself king, and they all think everything will be wonderful now.
Except, they fight. They are sad sometimes. They can be mean to each other (just like children can be). And, each Wild Thing seems to represent some part of Max's life: the cool but elusive KW is a cross between his mother and his sister; the timid Alexander is the part of Max who feels ignored by those around him; negative Judith represents the adults who are always saying why things can't be done; and Carol . . . Carol is Max, but nine feet tall and covered in fur and scales. He is loud and out of control, and he is self-conscious and lonely. He can be bluff and gruff, but also sweet and endearing. He is a little boy in Wild Thing form, and we watch he and Max bounce off of each other, fight, play, push each other apart and together again and again. Through Carol Max can see his own faults and mistakes, and grows a little wiser and more appreciative of his home, his dog, and his mom waiting for him at the dinner table.

Where the Wild Things Are is dangerous and scary, it is sad and insightful, it is hopeful, beautiful and powerful. I cried at the end: when everything seems to be going wrong on Max's island kingdom and everyone is fighting, KW looks at Max and simply says, "Families are hard." This film should be required viewing for every family, especially those with younger children. This is not truly a children's movie, but it is about childhood, as it truly is, and not seen through the hazy golden lens that Hollywood always seems to want us to view it through. Families are hard, growing up is never easy, and being a kid is more complex than most adults remember it to be.
I highly recommend this movie; bring your family to see it, and bring kleenex.


kaye said...

what an insightful review. I love this book. We are going tonight.

Ashton Dene' said...

I can't wait to see this movie, and reading your review of it has made me even more excited to get to watch it.

Thanks for sharing your experience,it was beautiful and moving, all the things I expect this movie to be.

x, ash

InspiredDreamer said...

Putting this movie into words is really hard, isn't it?? But you did a great job. You're right that this is a movie about childhood yet isn't quite for children...and yet I fully believe that the people who will get the most out of it are children and the young at heart.

But definitely, mothers, watch it first. Don't just send your 5-year-old off to see it alone.