Where The Wild Things Are: See It, But Only Once

By Jessica Grabert 2009-10-14 20:57:23discussion comments
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I have a friend who dislikes seeing films twice, because, after the first viewing, he already knows the plot, so why would he see it again? Foolish. When a movie is great, you should grasp for straws to re-watch its best moments, like the fanciful dance scene in 500 Days of Summer. When a movie is great, a repeated viewing can give you ample time to consider specific ideas, to take note of moments you may have missed the first time ‘round. Where the Wild Things Are is not a great movie.

The problem is not found in scene after scene of wonderful, imaginative imagery. It is not found with Dave Eggers script or the whirlwind of emotion it exudes. The problem is not found in taking a slim and innocuous but meaningful children’s book and putting it into syntax where adults can get on board—this is a movie where adults should be on board, even if their child offspring are not. Where the Wild Things Are is a grand movie—one I liked—but one I have no particular desire to revisit.

Where the Wild Things are is a thoughtful movie, one that entrenches us capably in a world of a little boy named Max who has every desire to open his heart to the audience, to allow us into his fascinating world of role-playing and imagination. And we should like to be there, too—Max watches his life with the same fervor and attention skills most of us reserve for weekend football games, fuck it, most of us are too drunk to be paying close attention to weekend football games, but Max, he never misses a beat.

Where the Wild Things are is a good movie. Its lesson is one of community, of realizing people extend far beyond their faults and can never be perfect. It’s a lesson in the ramifications of stating things, explicitly or offhandedly, that can’t be taken back. It’s about moving on from all of those things and still loving and providing, and ultimately, still being there at the end of the day, tangled and enmeshed, together.

This isn’t trite social commentary; this isn’t pushing at silly emotional buttons; this isn’t giving too little…or going too far. If it was, the divorce rate in this country wouldn’t be so poor, the amount of children who don’t give a shit about one of their parents would be a non-issue. Dave Eggers may be knocking us over the head with an idea, but it’s not an idea that is irrelevant or asinine.

But, like walking in on your brother in the shower, you’ll never need to see this film twice. As a side effect of writing a film through a child’s eyes, everything is overstated, even when it is written simply. There are no moments that need a bit of recall, no need to re-watch or rewind. With most good scripts, with Egger’s other script, in fact, there are small moments sometimes missed upon first viewing that make a film remunerative (See Away We Go when John Krazinksi stares at Carmen Ejogo’s boobs several minutes after explicitly being told his vision must not stray). In Where the Wild Things Are, Eggers is asking his audience to pay attention in a way a somnambulist could pay attention. Jokes about giant dogs are hysterical, but they are blatant within a scene. Dialogue about stepping on someone’s face, about tearing a hole in a person’s house, whatever, is obvious, not obvious enough to ruin a funny or moment or lose a point. It’s just that you shouldn’t need to see the film twice because everything is there upon first viewing. If you don’t get it the first time, you’re never going to.

The problem with this analysis is that you’ll likely agree. You’ll sit at your computer chairs, the gleaner your brain uses to pick up on other people’s opinions ready with a pen at hand. And you’ll smile and say, “Our kids hated this film because they’re intellectually more developed” when really they still have shit for brains. You’ll say you shouldn’t see it again because it just wasn’t clever enough or funny or, when you probably mean trendy enough or geared towards your id. It’s too good for most of us and not good enough for the best of us and because of that, not because of its wild rumpus or imagination or the acting of its wee star, it will invariably fall into obscurity.

Maybe Peter Pan had his shit together; maybe it’s about never growing up, thinking happy thoughts, having lovely affairs with Indian queens and mermaids. But I think Max has it right—get emotionally invested in the moments you’re given, run headfirst into the muck and mire but make merry when the moment is right. Because if you’re not a hundred percent invested in whatever is at hand you can’t possibly be paying attention, and you couldn’t have gotten this, anyway.
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