My cinematic adventures began with Where the Wild Things Are, based on the Maurice Sendak picturebook of the same name. The source material is classic, but it didn’t offer enough substance to be fleshed out to the length of a typical motion picture. Enter Dave Eggers, popular for his novel A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Eggers wrote the screenplay for Where the Wild Things Are, and the collaboration between Eggers and hipster director Spike Jonze is clearly evident in the tone of the movie. It is, quite simply, sad. Children whose parents are divorced and whose custodial parents are consumed with trying to compensate for this fracture of their homes immediately recognize the loneliness in the main character, a young boy named Max, who escapes his heartache through fantasy.
The titular Wild Things are simultaneously warm and foreboding, both gentle and ferocious. But in recognizing and helping them deal with their loneliness (particularly Carol’s), Max comes to recognize that he must deal with his.
The final scene in the film between Max and his mother is devastating. I left this movie feeling a sense of melancholy that I’ve never experienced coming out of a movie marketed towards children. Or was it? In truth, the movie probably most appeals to the twenty and thirtysomethings who read Sendak’s book until its pages were dogeared and who found in Max a kindred spirit.