Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wild thing... make my heart sing.

Last night Dan and I curled up on the couch to watch Where The Wild Things Are. I'd heard varying opinions on it, ranging from "great movie" to "very disturbing".
Suffice to say, no reviews I'd read or heard did it justice. It's not like any movie I've ever seen before. Not just aesthetically, but even the style of the plot defies labels. To describe it as a coming of age tale or a kids' movie to to do a disservice to both the film and its viewers.

This is a surrealistic romp into the volatile mind of a pre-teen, Max. At 10 years of age, he is not quite a child, but not quite an adolescent. And that is very strange place to be emotionally and physically.
This world we see is a beautiful interpretation of that limbo that exists within each "tween". It's a place that is both beautiful and scary. Friendly and wild.
Max finds this world after running away from home after throwing a tantrum. The creatures that live there give Max a unique perspective on what it is to live in that place, that limbo that exists.

Spike Jonze is gifted and a truly unique talent. Had anyone else tackled adapting this treasured childhood book, the results would have been nothing like this. While he diverges from the plot of the book, he captures the emotion. This film is evocative and exists not in the head but in the heart. It does not try to be clever or intellectual, it simply makes us feel. And it becomes a living, breathing, warm, fuzzy creature in its own right. It makes you feel all of those times when you were scared or angry that things were changing, that you were no longer a child and the feeling of "everything is going to be okay" became harder and harder to find.

Max Records brings a perfect innocence and accessibility to Max. He is not a heroic figure, he is just a 10 year old boy, and he is charming.
The Wild Things are played with adept skill by Chris Cooper, James Gandolfini, Catherine O'Hara, Paul Dano, Forest Whitaker, and Lauren Ambrose (who we don't see enough of in films, she was my favorite in "Six Feet Under"). They are unpredictable, tempestuous, and perfectly embody every emotion in a way that is palpable and immediately recognizable. They are just big kids themselves, trying to find their place in their world.

Visually, this movie is everything I wish Alice In Wonderland had been. It is bizarre but believable, and the characters are not cartoonish. It has grit, it has soul. It is the place we all went when we played in our backyards or playgrounds. It is that place inside of us all. It is weird and wonderful. It is just strange enough to be a dreamworld, but not beyond our wildest dreams. It's fantastic, but not perfect.
Jim Henson's Creature Shop made the suits for the creatures, and they add something that no fancy CGI ever could. They are real things made from real stuff, not pixels and codes. They are tangible.

Some critics felt it was too dark for children. I disagree. It is honest with children. It makes no illusions about growing up being fun and Max's problems aren't all solved at the end. The entire plot serves to teach Max one lesson: Everything doesn't have to be okay, and you can't make everything okay. Just do the best you can with what you've got.
And I don't think that's something we should shield kids from. the longer we create the illusion that everything is all happy-ever-after and singing animals, the harder it is for kids to adjust to reality. Things aren't always going to be okay. Things are going to suck sometimes. Things are going to be hard sometimes. Sometimes we have to do things we don't want to. Sometimes we lose things. Sometimes the people we love can hurt us and make us angry.
If we never tell them these things, how are we to prepare them for life?

So take the trip with Max to Where The Wild Things Are, bring the kids, and let the wild rumpus into your heart.

-- Noel
Sent from my T-Mobile Sidekick®


No comments: