In my spare time I partake in a variety of hobbies, including reading, writing, and watching movies. This summer I saw more than 15 different films, with an average of about two every weekend. I’m fortunate enough to have access to Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix and Verizon Fios, so the possibilities are nearly endless. Recently, I’ve chosen theme weekends, to find more movies I might enjoy. I had France weekend, and saw “Amelie” and “Loving Vincent,” and I also had a New York City weekend, and saw “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” and “Before You Go.” This past weekend, I saw two documentaries on children’s book authors. On Hulu, I saw “Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak,” and “Monkey Business: The Adventures of Curious George’s Creators,” which chronicled the lives of couple Hans and Margret Rey.
These documentaries inspired me to see “Where the Wild Things Are,” which was produced by Sendak and was based off his bestselling book. I rented it off Verizon Fios for about four dollars, and it was breathtaking. The story follows Max, a boy who is having trouble at home. He becomes upset after his sister’s friends destroy the igloo he built. Meanwhile, his mom, played by Catherine Keener, is stressed out about her job. While his mom is sharing wine with her boyfriend, Max stomps on the countertop and throws a tantrum. He jumps on his sister’s bed and tears up a craft he made for her. These beginning scenes are tense and difficult to watch. The pain in his eyes almost made me cry as well. He runs away from home and takes a boat out to an island. When the boat lands, he stumbles upon a group of creatures. He quickly becomes their king and develops a camaraderie with them.
The movie was released back in 2009, and it is still equally relevant today as it was nine years ago. The plot is simple, as it is based off a children’s book. However, Max’s feelings of loneliness and eagerness to find his place in the world are both universal themes.
The best scenes include the friendly creatures, who also come with their own quirks and eccentricities. He becomes closest to Carol, who was voiced by the late James Gandolfini. Carol takes Max under his wings and shows him around the new environment. The creatures all vie for Max’s attention, as they want to be around him and get to know him better. Some creatures even fear that Max has favorites, as they all want him to think highly of them. In arguably the most profound scene of the film, Carol shows max a model of mountains he built. He imagines, “what if there was a place where only the things you wanted to have happen happened?” He and Max both agree to make their habitat as close to that notion as possible. This quote captures the essence of where the wild things really are. His adventures represent a larger idea of how all people envision their perfect place. Wouldn’t everyone like to be in a world where every situation had the correct outcome?
It’s all fun and games at first until Carol feels betrayed. One of the creatures, K.W, introduces her two owl friends, Bob and Terry, to the group, and Carol doesn’t want the owls anywhere near his home. Max disagrees and is fine with their presence, but Carol chases after him. There is one scene where Max hides inside a creature because he fears that he will get eaten. This scene was hard to watch because it was disgusting, but aside from that, nearly every scene is visually stunning. Spike Jonze did an outstanding job as director. Every camera angle is precise, and the lighting and CGI effects made the creatures feel real. I was not expecting it to be as deep and philosophical as it was. There are tearjerker moments throughout, as Max feels conflicted and confused. For him, life as a king is not the way he imagined, and he has trouble figuring out the best ways to utilize his power.
The movie has a vague ending, with only a hint of closure. And it is never fully stated if the creatures are all real or only Max’s imagination. Also, the audience can see Max spending days and nights with the creatures, but the movie does not explicitly state how much time he spends with them. I recommend that everyone sees this, as it evokes a variety of emotions. There’s such joy when Max is gallivanting through the woods with the creatures, and when he returns home, it is bittersweet. The film jumps around, as each scene is unique in its own way. And, I could not tell where the plot was going. I figured it was going to end on a positive note; but, it’s just an open ending. It is not a stereotypical happy ending. It’s refreshing to see such an honest portrayal of what it means to feel lost and alone in the world.