I cried the first time I saw the trailer for the movie and was pretty excited to see Spike Jonze attached to it. Also, the kid who plays Max is a Portland resident, also named Max. I loved the music they used for the trailer. I waited a few days to see the movie because I'm one of those people who gets annoyed in crowded theaters. Since Abe joined our family, I've gone a couple of times to see movies by myself at a local theater in our neighborhood. I go about a week after the release date, in the middle of the day so I don't have to share the theater with too many people. Otherwise, I'm distracted by the popcorn smacking (disgusting) and end up really grouchy and just wanting to leave.
The term "feast for the eyes" is a cliche, so I'm sorry to be using it, but I have to. I can't think of a better way to describe the land of the Wild Things. I'm sure I had my mouth hanging open most of the time. A couple of reviewers complained about how slow the film was at times, that Spike Jonze's indulgence of showing you his love for this world slowed down the pace of the film. Well, fine by me. I love that world too and was content being there as long as Max was.
Spike Jonze and Max Records
Anyway. One day a couple of weeks ago when Ted was home, I went during Abe's naptime to see Where the Wild Things Are, all by myself. Ten minutes into the movie, I was already tearing up. The acting is incredible. Of course, Catherine Keener is lovely in anything she does, so we already knew that, but this Max Records kid is incredible. Just incredible. He had never acted before this film. There were so many subtle moments, so many tiny details that made Wild Thing Max very real, like any kid and every kid you've ever known.
Spike Jonze and Max Records
Though the bulk of the story takes place in the fantastical imagination of a boy, I was struck by the realism and truth presented in the film. I cried off and on through the whole thing partly because of how beautiful it is but also because of how truthful it is. Of course, you've probably heard by now that each Wild Thing is an aspect of Max's personality, that he's working through the problems in his real life by projecting onto these made-up characters. I can see that, but honestly, I wasn't thinking about that while watching the film. Each Wild Thing was distinct, each one so human, with all of our selfish instincts towards self-preservation, but also with wonder, imagination, insecurities and beautiful selflessness. The Wild Things are as complex as human beings are.
A reviewer for The Oregonian gave Where the Wild Things Are a basically good review but added that, much like the Wild Things themselves, it seemed to be written mostly for adults who never wanted to grow up. I don't like his insinuation that this is a bad thing. When I read that line, I felt a little pang of recognition in my chest because another reason why I was so moved by the film was the feeling it gave me of remembering so vividly my own childhood. Was that the only reason I loved the film so much? Because I don't want to be a grown-up and long to sail off to an island where I build forts with made-up creatures?
Hm. I'm not sure about that one. Some days I definitely feel that way. But it then struck me that probably the main reason I was so emotional during the film was because my introduction and full immersion in to the world Maurice Sendak created in his book only came because of my very own Wild Thing living in our house. My love for this story is completely tied up in my love for my son. Abe loves it, so I love it.
One of the best parents I know, a man my parents' age, became my friend while I was in graduate school and made an offhanded comment one day that will always stay with me. He decided against his usual french roast at the coffeeshop where I worked, going instead that day for a chai tea because, "Ben and Ali like these, so I figure they must be good." This may not seem like a big deal, but this man was a creature of habit, nearly always ordering the same thing. But he choose differently this day because he wanted to like the things his kids liked because he loved his kids and thought they hung the moon. I tear up thinking about it even now. I want to be a parent like this.
Where the Wild Things will be forever connected to my love for my son. Abe liked it, so I knew it must be good. His love for this story became my love for this story, and Spike Jonze did a damn fine job showing us this world on film.