Fell Asleep In His Brand New Winter Coat

The sun had just come out on Sunday, brightening up Rachel’s small apartment. We had to move the curtain across the sliding glass door in order to keep the glare off the television, while we sat ready to take in a rented movie. Red Box had foiled us before when we tried to rent Where The Wild Things Are, much like our attempts to relax had been thwarted by crankieness, and the sun’s attempts had been blocked by clouds earlier that day.

I had been eager to watch this film, mostly because Dave Eggers wrote the screenplay and the novel based off the film. As you may recall, I have an unabashed love for almost anything he does as an artist, and I think you should too. But that’s a whole ‘nother post. Rachel and I were expecting a different film from what we saw when we put the movie in. We understood it was going to be a little dark, but I don’t think either of us were prepared for the way this film worked on our psyches.

I always thought Maurice Sendak’s book was populated with plenty of dark corners, filled with fear and uncertainty.  At least from what I remember. Watching the film, I kept trying to reach into the memories of the book, and compare–but either because of the holes in my memory (I haven’t read the book in well over 20 years–or would that be 25 now?), or because this wasn’t a book, I stopped, and just watched.

When I first heard about the adaptation, I was skeptical and train-wreck curious. How do you make a 10-sentence picture book into a 100+ minute movie? Evidently, you hire Spike Jonze, a director who loves and fully invests in the premise and themes of a film. So much of my praise for this translation stems from this crafting of the awkward, frightening aspects of early collapsing childhood, and from the steps your brain takes without you always wanting to go along with them.

This film reached into my memories of childhood wildness being tempered by rational adult-world facts and the fears associated with the incomprehensible events to come, both big and small. And that’s what makes a successful work of art: connecting deeply to people who experience the work, and reminding the viewer that they are not alone. Even as a translated piece Where The Wild Things Are achieved this connection, where other adapted films like The Road came very close, and Watchmen missed the mark. While it did not brighten up my day, like the sun that evening as it set, it did give me some perspective, and some calm reflection. Which made all the difference, as I talked and laughed on the long ride home.

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