On Friday night I went to see Where the Wild Things Are with the family. A fascinating film. I have gotten the sense that people break one way or the other on it: positive response to Spike Jonze's extension of Sendak's premise, or negative reaction to the ambiguity of the narrative. Everybody in our clan liked it, but no small children are included in that group by now. There was some disagreement about how much analysis was warranted: Can't you just enjoy the movie!?
Well, yes and no. Mostly no, because the film does not ask to be enjoyed. I would like to see it again, after a while. But Wild Things struck me as a Sartrean meditation on the difficulty life with others: hell is other people, with fur. Troubled Max is doubled by Carol, the Gandolfini-voiced monster. Carol refashions his world as a make-believe sculptural landscape, and later bashes it in a rage. The interpersonal world of the wild things is richly managed. Needs, fears, uncertainties and frustrations play out in life on the island. Max fails in his reign as king, inflicting wounds in the process. I was reminded of Daniel Keyes famous short story "Flowers for Algernon." Carol's sadness and rage mirror Max's, but do they also prefigure the boy's trajectory into adult life? Things will not be easy for Max. I found myself pondering the evocations and intimations of mental illness in Carol's unraveling.
Don't go expecting a fuzzy grinning happyfest. But the ambiguity is worth it–is it, in fact. And wonderful to look at, too.