January 31, 2010

Where The Wild Things Are

It has taken me a while to finally get around to watching Where The Wild Things Are. I think part of me was so worried about being disappointed that I wanted to keep the idea of the film more real than actually watching it. I mean, Spike Jones+Dave Eggers+Karen O should = perfection right?

Well…yes and no. My friend Anthony emailed me last night after I told him I had finally seen the film:
I liked the movie, but not as much as I wanted. I did cry once however. Hated the boy.

I wanted to share some thoughts, because the film has lingered in my mind all day; I can’t seem to shake it. Please click play on the video below and let the song play as you read, because this song epitomizes the overwhelming sense of perfect sadness this film so perfectly embodies.

Ultimately the film is about dysfunction, emptiness, and human relationships. It shatters the myth that it will be all okay and replaces it with the cold stone truth that human beings struggle to make sense of the barrenness we feel both alone and in the company of those we love.

Although Max himself is broken, he is asked to take fix the problems of a group of dysfunctional wild things. He himself has yet to learn how to deal with his own anger, alienation, and loneliness, yet he makes false promises to the monsters, which in turn set up a series of disappointments for everyone. The film is really about how we cling to others to help deal with our anxieties, never stepping back to see that they too maybe suffering as we do.

Eggers and Jonez examine a series of relationships between family members, lovers, friends, and competitors by exposing their jealousies, competitiveness, trust, and ultimately love.

On the surface the movie is a quirky, sometimes silly puppet show, but upon closer look it is an investigation of the human condition. It is the story of every lonely runaway who has felt that they could find the answers through escape. But as anyone who has ever tried to runaway from their problems or placed them on the shoulders of other, Max realizes that only he can deal with his issues. Not by running away, but by allowing himself to be loved and to truly love others as they are, not as we want them to be.

My friend was right to say he hated the boy; I think that was the point. He is a spoiled, broken little boy, who is unable to come to term with his emotions. By escaping into his imagination and coming face-to-face with the things that are wilder than himself, he realizes that human emotions can be very damaging to himself and to others, unless he learns to control them.

My favorite line of the film was
Happiness is not the best way to be happy.
Play this song next:

From that line on, I remembered that is was Dave Eggers putting the words into the mouths of these beautiful monsters and Spike Jonez was the one pulling their strings. Even in their wretchedness, both Max and the wild things do not simply sit idly by and wait to be overtaken by grief. They let the “wild rumpus” start. It is through play and chaos and fun that they deal with their sorrow. Only once he lets his guard, can Max truly see how fragile and tender everyone is.

Did I think the movie was perfect? Unfortunately no. But it has made me see the classic short children’s book in a whole new light. Perhaps Jonez’s vision is not the one everyone who is in love with the book will want to see, but he opens up your mind and your heart and plants his seed. It will leave you thinking for days after.


  1. Thanks for the review--I think you've given me the right information so that I can see it for myself with an open heart and let go of worrying it will interfere with what is, for me, a perfect book.

  2. I have felt the same way about seeing the movie. I'll give it a chance on video. Nice musical accompaniment to the post.

  3. If you haven't, you might want to listen to this NPR interview with Sendak. It's very moving.