Sunday, October 18, 2009
WHERE THE ART IS
As expected, I was not disappointed. It is, however, a much different film than I expected; Spike Jonze tapped his inner Kubrick, his inner Malick, and made a $100 million art film, a film not for children, but about a child, told in a mature, intelligent, creative, and singular way. I was expecting something special, and I definitely got that. It's just that I wasn't sure what the end result was going to be with this movie, what with all of the fighting between Jonze and Warner Brothers, and the delayed production. The film is definitely "the book," so anyone who is afraid that Jonze and crew didn't remain faithful to Sendak's book can stay calm. But it's much more than the book; it's a painful movie about the effects of divorce, how it shapes children, and in the case of the film's hero, Max, how it shapes an awkward boy as he starts to understand his uncertain familial future. This is as bold of a "kids" movie as I've ever seen, but again, I hesitate to really call it a "kids" movie. For a film that went through years of production and creative turmoil, you'd never know it. Where the Wild Things Are is, above all, a visual marvel; the creatures themselves are some of the most beguiling cinematic creations that have ever been imagined. The idea to go man-in-suit with the Things was a great idea. This low-tech, old-school approach has been perfectly mixed with state of the art visual effects for the eyes and mouths, and the results are nothing less than stunning. Lance Acord's gorgeous, hand-held, and totally engrossing cinematography is some of the year's best shooting, and the driving, upbeat yet melancholy score brought everything together. And I haven't even touched upon the performance of Max Records as Max -- in short, it's an auspicious debut. The entire movie hangs on his performance, and he really was captivating. But it was the interactions between the Things that will keep me coming back to this film in years to come. Where the Wild Things Are is one of the best films of the year, but it's not going to be loved by all. I think little kids, by and large, will be scared by it, and will probably be turned off by the lack of major action-moments and cutsey-humor bits. This isn't a whiz-bang CGI creation with bright colors and easy to digest themes. It's a film that is more likely to be appreciated by adults, and by people who loved the book as a child. And maybe most impressively, no other film, with the possible exception of Tarsem's The Fall (a film that Where the Wild Things Are shares many things in common with), has conjured up fever-dream images quite like the way Wild Things does. It's not to be missed on the big screen and a real tour de force for Jonze as an artist.