16 October, 2009

Oh please don't go! We'll eat you up, we love you so!

Note: This my super biased, slightly smug review of the new film Where the Wild Things Are. If you don't like reviews that give away the plot, do not read this, because I give away pretty much everything. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I don't like Spike Jonze. To be fair, I don't hate him either: I have seen one of his skate movies, as a matter of fact (Thank you, skater brothers) and I like the work he's done with the Beastie Boys. However, this is mostly because in my view, the Beastie Boys can do no wrong. But that's neither here nor there. Especially since I've changed my tune in the past twenty four hours.

Anyway, when I heard that Spike Jonze was slated to direct a film adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are, a brilliant book with a strikingly relevant yet minimalist plot, I along with the rest of humanity knew that this film could go one of two ways: beauty and heart wrenching, or unadulterated suckiness.

Sleep well, dear children. It's an awesome movie.

The movie starts out with some tidy backstory, and this may well be the first time mere exposition in a film has made me cry. Max (Played by the seriously-is-that-a-pseudonym-or-what Max Records) is an imaginative, rowdy kid who chases the family dog around in the first scene, and is then shown building a snow fort in a generic New England-ish cul-de-sac. Most of the film is shot at Max's eye level, using hand-held cameras, which helps you see Max's universe the way he sees it: the entrance to the snow fort isn't just a hole in a pile of snow, it's a sanctuary. The fence is a row of disobedient soldiers. The actor who plays Max was apparently only nine years old at the time, and he is so beautiful I actually did want to eat him up, a little bit. He has dark, intuitive eyes, and in general broke my heart.

The part that made me cry initially was when Max tries to get his older sister to play in the snow fort with him, and she completely ignores him. Max is meant to be sort of an everykid, and the film manages to evoke the way everyone has felt at one time or another: wanting someone to imagine with. Claire, who has maybe seven minutes of screen time, if that, isn't a villainous older sister, as portrayed in many movies about sibling relationships. She doesn't sneer at or abuse Max, she just ignores him, and it evoked in my mind every single time I ignored my brothers, and when I saw the look at Max's face of longing and disappointment when she rejects him, that's when I lost it. In the end, this movie isn't about a kid who travels to a monster island and wreaks havoc with animatronic robots from the Creature Shop to the strains of indie music. It's about the universally felt need to be appreciated.

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