GO SEE "WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE" - RIGHT NOW.
- Tuesday, November 03, 2009
The beauty of critiquing art is that we get to disagree. Even if many like or loathe the same film, album, or book, they may like or loathe it for very different reasons - and those reasons often open up thrilling debate. As a matter of fact, debating art is one of those unintentional ways that we grow to understand the heart of someone else. I will learn a friend's hot buttons and passions very quickly by discussing an artistic work that he or she absolutely loves - or absolutely hates. This is why truly bad art is the sort of art that provokes little to no reaction at all: "take-it-or-leave-it" art. That sort of middle-of-the-road approach refuses to stir imagination or opinion and therefore does very little to cause us to grow. It is the hot-button film that forces us to be truly introspective. The hot-button of the moment? Spike Jonze revelation of "Where the Wild Things Are."
Yes, I've read the many critiques that have felt the film flounders - even the review on this very site. But, I present to you now a last ditch argument of reasons that YOU. MUST. SEE. THIS. FILM.
1. The film captures the essence of actual childhood in a generation of overworked mothers and fatherless boys. The film's protagonist, Max, is in the pivotal age of transferring from a boy's world to a man's world. This has been thrust upon him because his own father has abandoned the family, changing everything. The father's departure has created three Wild Things: a mother who cannot mother because she also has to father, a sister who does not connect with her brother because she has left his age of immaturity behind, and Max himself: the Wild Thing of the film's title. Max makes childish decisions, but not irrational ones based on his life at the moment. He struggles to process the change in his family and the need to fill the emptiness inside of him. However, lacking maturity, he attempts to fill his painful void with what he believes to be the real answer: absolute freedom. And, as we all know, in a world of absolute freedom, our emotions become Wild Things.
2. The film intrigues and captivates the young (but not too young) while digging into a deep well for adults. In Max's escapist wilderness, his emotions (in the guise of Carol, KW, and the others) run free without barriers or borders and chaos ensues. Max claims himself King over his feelings - certain that he can manage them now that he is the Boss of Himself. But, these emotions will not be led, and they will certainly not be tamed. View the film through new, adult eyes and you will see powerful symbolism in each emotion represented, as well as in each decision and action Max takes to corral them into a place where Max feels complete. Viewed through this filter, moments other critics have deemed "meandering" become powerful statements of Max's growth - moments we can empathize with as adults and perhaps even learn from.
3. The visual approach is astounding and sets the perfect mood. Max's wilderness is not a utopian fantasy world. It is an ominous, daunting - yet mesmerizing place. The prospect of taking control of one's life and situation is a place of hope: but that doesn't make it a land that is any less frightening. Jonze captures this beautiful, terrible landscape with a pitch-perfect aesthetic that is simultaneously like nothing you've seen in cinema before.
4. The climax and its message. Without giving away the ending (and if you've read the children's book, there is plenty more to surprise you), suffice it to say that the emotional catharsis of the film's payoff is riveting. But, again, filter the moments and the statements through the glasses of adulthood. What is the shift inside of Max that is happening at the film's climax? Why does he make the decisions he makes? When, in our own lives, did we make that same decision: the decision to become a grown-up? And, then of course, debate it.
And that is the true joy of a film experience like "Where the Wild Things Are." Inevitably, I will see something that you will not and vice-versa. By debating it and dissecting it and even by being perturbed at how we don't see eye-to-eye, we will both grow. I will understand more of you than I did before, and you will understand more of me.And that, my friend, is how we begin to tame the Wild Things.
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