Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

(Spike Jonze, 2009)
I love this movie very much even though I am aware of its flaws - mainly an excessive schematism in the portrayal of the wild things themselves. With no choice but to move beyond the perfect primal simplicity of Sendak's book, the movie turns them into almost a catalogue of juvenile neuroses. The angry kid, the low-self-esteem kid, the mouthy kid, the loner - it's an elephantine Seven Dwarfs. Every incident is telegraphed as a Freudian symbol, so that the movie never becomes a wild thing in itself. But while the design may be linear, it's also deep - in addition to nailing the unsolvable messiness of childhood, the Max-as-king charade provides an unforced commentary on grown-up dilemmas from nationalism to xenophobia to love itself. So while the softening of Sendak's finale is a bit suspect, it's also emotionally devastating - the chicken's false stick-arm is a piercing symbol of the mistakes that can't be undone, and the angry thing's final helpless yowl can mean whatever you want it to mean. And I'm positive that the Henson folks' incredible character designs - you can feel them, you can smell them - compounds the impact.

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