October 23, 2009, Newsletter Issue #256: Where the Wild Things Are

Tip of the Week

Spike Jonze is quickly becoming the voice of a generation – for the film medium. Jonze adapts Maurice Sendak’s classic tale of childhood imagination with a twist. Having no frame of reference to go by, except the recognizable artwork done by Sendak himself for the book, Jonze takes a clear lens and fills it with unforgettable characters and a touching narrative. Relying more on raw, unbridled emotion than words, the film tells a story of a young boy’s unhinged anger towards his mother, sister, family pet and himself. Max’s (Max Records) world begins to break down after a playful snowball fight, involving his sister’s (Pepita Emmerichs) teenage friends, turn into a rage infested crying session with “the teenage friends” smashing his snow fort. The day’s action climaxes as Max witnesses his mother (Catherine Keener) kissing her boyfriend (Mark Ruffalo), who is on this film for a few blinks. Although a father is never shown - the film shows a touching shot of a gift you won’t want to miss - Max is obviously angered by his mom’s new relationship. The kiss causes him to lash out towards his mom, bite her on the shoulder and run from the house into a sailboat where his journey, inward, begins. Upon landing on his new world, Max quickly declares himself King and the ensuing story takes-off.
Amidst all the classic tales of children books adapted to the big screen, Where the Wild Things Are will rank among the best. Jonze’s genius is not the narrative, but in the way the film combines emotional storytelling with inanimate monsters. The monsters expressions were artfully completed with CGI, while the seemingly ten foot puppets appear to step right out of the award winning children’s book; the film dares the audience to keep up with Max’s imagination, wonder and emotional rollercoaster. This is certainly not a children’s movie. From the opening scene of Max chasing his dog screaming in anger, to the dirt fight scene showing how a child deals with boredom and depression, Where the Wild Things Are lives up to its title. Leave the kiddies at home and be transported to your eight year-old sheet fort where everything seemed to make sense so many years ago. Try not to judge Max, or Jonze, and let yourself feel all the raw emotionally charged undertones of this film. You might even walk out of the theatre smiling, knowing you left your “wild thing” back on that distant land, that place where we all went when we felt conflicted as children.   
Have a great day and God Bless.

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