Wednesday, October 28, 2009

and it was still hot.

Ickie and I went to see Where the Wild Things Are over the weekend. I've been looking forward to it for months, ever since seeing the preview and hearing that Spike Jonez was directing. (Jonez did Being John Malkovich, which has to be the weirdest premise for a movie ever, and that hilarious Happy Days Weezer video.)

For your information, this movie is not for young children. It will frighten them. Older children might even be bored with some of it. WtWTA is for those of us who grew up loving Maurice Sendak and who are mature enough to appreciate the unfiltered anger, ecstasy, and desperation of hurting kids.

Jonez has fleshed out Sendak's story to depict Max as an older child hungering for attention from his older sister (who coldly ignores him in one scene) and his sympathetic but overworked mom, played by Catherine Keener. I love Keener in everything I've seen her in, and even though she's only in a few scenes here, she's spectacular. Jonez is able to portray a tremendous amount about Max's home life in just a few introductory scenes: in my favorite, Max lies under his mom's desk and tells her a story while she works late. Jonez's attention to details is striking: Max lazily fingering the pantyhose seam on his mom's toes, her tired but tender expression, and the sound of her fingers clacking on the keyboard recording Max's sad, made-up story. She's a good mom, as this scene critically conveys, for in the next scene she's furious with him, worn out by his antics and neediness, and Max is out-of-control and extremely unlikable.

I haven't even gotten to the wild things yet! When Max first spies them by firelight, their conversation sounds like an overheard argument on a playground. The wild things are granted individual personalities (and amusingly commonplace names: Carol, Ira, Douglas, Alexander) absent in the book. They look just like Sendak's illustrations come to life--not at all like men in costume. I don't even know how they managed to create these faces that change so clearly from one emotion to the next. The wild things are in turn depressed, manic, irritatingly needy, achingly lonely, terribly afraid, and terrifying. The wild things are children utterly out of control, struggling with playground politics, trying to mimic adults, hugging and hurting each other in equal measure. They reflect Max's emotions as well as others from his real life. And the whole movie just looks AMAZING. The fort they build will blow you away! It is worth seeing on the big screen, and though some scenes are heartwarming, you have to wade through a lot of pain and darkness to get there.

Upon leaving the theater, I felt drunk on my own emotions: exhausted and enthralled at the same time, as though I hadn't felt anything so strongly since I was a child. It's a beautiful, beautiful movie, and it adds to my enjoyment of the book greatly, an experience I rarely find in a book-turned-movie.

1 comment:

Jackamo said...

You've certainly convinced me. I can't wait to see it!