Sunday, November 8, 2009

The One Where I Gush about Where the Wild Things Are

I never read Where the Wild Things Are as a kid. I was familiar with the art and the Wild Things but had never read the book from start to finish until I checked it out from the library with Abe several months ago. After our first reading of it, Abe looked me square in the eye and said, "read it again, Mom." So we did. Three more times in one sitting.

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.

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

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.

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.


Stacie said...

Lori. You make me cry with a post on a film! I love the "Ben and Ali like these," story. Love it.

Jill said...

i love you posting every day!

Julie said...

Aww Lori.

The Busters said...

Hi Lori! My name is Emily and I am on the Gladney waitlist. I am a few days behind on reading blogs and just read your parenting post from a few days ago and LOVED it. Thank you so much for bringing up the topic and the comments were so great to read! As parenthood approaches I think of that stuff a lot so it was a great read for me.
In more relevant news, I remember reading "Where the Wild Things Are" to my younger cousin and he did the same thing - looked at me and asked me to read it again. love it. Thanks!

Gretchen said...

More posts from Lori! More posts from Lori! (this is a chant)


More pictures of Lori and Abe together! More pictures of Lori and Abe together! (also a chant)

mama becca said...

I love this post! feels like I got to peer into your soul a bit (but not in a creepy way) :). thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this. now that i have my kids i can totally relate to loving what they love... just embracing everything that stirs their souls. most recently this involves leah loving taylor swift... however teenager-y she is, zach and i now love taylor swift, and leah cries through her songs... it is quite possibly the sweetest thing i've ever witnessed.

PVZ said...

Love this post Lori, as always you write so well the things that we feel but cannot articulate as well as you do. I love getting to be an observer of Mom Rooney, you amaze me.

Lori said...

I'm really looking forward to seeing "Wild Things" with you. I certainly don't wannna be a grown up much of the time, so I will be glad to head off into never-never movie-land with you and Max for a couple of hours. What should I bring?

rebekah said...


Me again. Taking a little time today to read through your last several posts. And I had to comment about this one.

I left the theater with tears streaming down my cheeks. So did my husband. Our two friends, both single and childless, stayed firm.

Like you, I knew about each Wild Thing representing a part of a child's emotional life, but during the movie I was all in. It struck me intensely to see on screen how hard it is being a child.

But I think there's so much more to it - adults connect because for the most part we haven't left all of that behind. Not just the wish to chuck it all and sail off to a land of make believe. But we still carry the emotional pains of growing up.

We had originally thought it would be too much for our 5 year old. But now we think it might just be good confirmation to him that in fact he's not alone in his confusion about how to approach every day. We'll just be right by his side on the couch at home while he watches.