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Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

Spike Jonze's beautiful Where the Wild Things Are

Let the wild rumpus start!

Where the Wild Things Are
Cast: Max Records, Catherine Keener, voices of James Gandolfini, Chris Cooper, Paul Dano, Lauren Ambrose
Director: Spike Jonze

Spike Jonze is one of my favorite directors who is often known for his quirky, imaginative collaborations with his wicked professional twin screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation). Both have come up with one of the best films of all time working separately recently. Kaufman made Synecdoche, New York which Roger Ebert named as film of the decade. Jonze’s film Where the Wild Things Are is a marvelous adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s children book of the same title.

Telling story about its wildest creature child protagonist Max (Max Records) an imaginative kid having trouble at home feeling not being loved enough. Opening section of the film captures Max childhood so brilliantly that reminds of its directors auteur form. We see him chasing a dog jittery yet fluidly, building an igloo and starting a snow-fight with his sister’s Clair’s friends, telling his mother the stories about vampires gifted for his age, saddening when his teacher tells the class sun is going to die one day. One night dressing in wolf costume after getting in argument with his mother (Catherine Keener, few scene but as usual lives the character), bites her and threaten to eat her. Being yelled at he runs out of the house and sails into the wild world (which is his own creation) meeting these beasty creatures to rule them as their king.

The wild things are lead by erratic but good-hearted Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini ) who wants everyone to stay together. Other members populate the island are Judith “downer” (Catherine O’Hara),  her partner Ira (Forest Whitaker) who makes good holes in tree, a goat creature (Paul Dano) feels unattended and under-loved, and finally there is KW (Lauren Ambrose) who like Max’s own sister making friends outside family and causing increasing disapproval by Carol. One of the motifs apart from Max is clearly families are often made of disparate members and its inevitable dissonance while everyone fundamentally craves for harmony. Their perceptions, problems and impossible expectations from each other to satisfy all at once often depicts the complexity itself like each individual. While in the fantasy land he is made king where he supposed to bring happiness to these troubled group which he soon realizes it’s far more daunting and demanding task. There is a snow-balls fight which is sort of repeated in dirt-clod fight on island both ends in tears. Suddenly he is on the other side.  In the process of short reining where most of film takes place Max creating wild rumpus he learns great deal about human nature (a quiet scene between MAx and KW one of many peek moments) in the end to return to the real world while his mother watches him having soup and falls asleep.

A sense of adventure runs though this beautifully canvassed picture, for which childhood now seems so fitting and adulthood so distant. While Where the Wild Things Are celebrates pure imagination it also ponders on its subject of childhood, parenting and family so lovingly and artfully not explaining or spelling out everything but allows you to draw you into the film. It’s an exhilarating ride to enter and get lost in this cinematic dreamscape created by Spike Jonze and Sendak which is strange at first but slowly you realize it’s in a way your own.

* Bad **Average *** Good ****Very Good ***** Outstanding