Sunday, October 25, 2009
I was basically unimpressed by Where the Wild Things Are. People say that it is not a film for children, which is true. Unfortunately, it doesn't really seem to be for adults either. I was, at first entranced by the wandering, episodic tale. At its opening, the film is really promising. Max's (Max Records) snow-romp is shown in pieces-- a montage hewn together in jerky, mis-matched shots. The depiction of Max's home is realistic and unsentimental. He is a typically maladjusted kid, with typical familial disagreements. There is nothing truly wrong in his life, except that it is not what he wants it to be, and he is reaching the age where imperfections become tragically apparent. I honestly liked the beginning of the film, which is a relatively brief prologue before the film erupts into incoherency.
Like I noted before, the film is quite entrancing, until the Wild Things themselves enter the scene. To me, they are pathetically unimaginative creatures. Aside from their titan appearances, they are just annoying children. This might not be totally bad, but they are undeveloped as characters. I never became attached to any of them. Also, they just never say anything remotely interesting. Their dialogue seems practically improvised. Not in a good, spontaneous way, but as if they are all enrolled in a beginner's acting class. There is no wit or insight to these wild things. What begins as a really interesting idea--a child battling the adversity of his imperfect world through the images of his subconscious--unravels very quickly into a series of shots of Max leading the yowling things on runs through the trees.
I do think Jonze's visuals redeem the film to a great extent. When the story becomes boring, there is usually something pretty to look at: sun-speckled woods, vast expanses of sand, the home-spun stick fortress. Plus, Catherine Keener is in it. Several idiosyncratic moments are entertaining because of their sheer inanity. In one of these, R.W. (voiced by Lauren Ambrose) swallows Max to hide him from the marauding Carol (James Gandolfini). It is true that in certain parts, the film does a decent job of capturing the dreamy imaginative world of pre-adolescence. But these moments are not able to salvage it.
Image from here