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.

8 comments:

Joel said...

This is why you need to overcome the bad trailers and any low expectations and rent "Bridge to Terabithia." It's very, very similar. The third act of it will probably have you in tears. Trust me. Watch it. The movies go hand in hand.

But anyway, I'm in complete agreement with you here. It's the best film of the year for me. It's almost haunting in effect. One-of-a-kind, bizarre, emotionally precise. Every minute resonated with me because I was somewhat similar as an eight-year-old. My review's over at the blog.

Actionman said...

Terabithia, eh? I'll add it to the queue...

I'll check out your review soon...

giggles said...

Did you see the interview of Sendak in Newsweek? He explains who the wild things really are, from his childhood....

I am even more ambivalent about seeing this flick than ever.... And I will not take the kids (my oldest is only 12) especially if it's about divorce...not yet....

Glad you liked it!!

Actionman said...

I didn't see that interview, but I did see the great little doc that Jonze did on Sendak for HBO -- it really fleshes out the film. If you're a fan of the book, do make the time to see this film on the big screen. I can't stop thinking about it.

Actionman said...

And I think 12 years old is fine for this movie...just not 3-9, which is the core demo that Hwood likes to pander too with kids movies.

Joel said...

Yeah, pretty much anybody under 12 won't get this movie. Or more specifically the themes involved. The way the book was changed felt organic, rather than fake or over-the-top.

"I can't stop thinking about it." RIGHT THERE WITH YOU, NICK. It's truly special.

Sara Hansemann said...

Spike has David Fincher, in part, to thank for the blend of CGI and men in suits. I read Fincher was working on B Button at the same time and counseled Jonze to use CGI, rather than animatronics, for the faces of the Wild Things. Thought the movie was terrific, a little slow for a midnight viewing, but outstanding in general. Soundtrack is a must have!

Actionman said...

Nice to hear from you Sara! Yes -- I had read that as well about the Finch showing Jonze what's up with new CGI techniques. I am just really happy with the idea that they went man-in-suit for the Things; it made them more tangible, and yet, more surreal/dreamy. It's a wonderful piece of work. I really can't wait to see it again.