The dialogue is so refreshingly honest. It is child-like without being childish, and at the same time so mature and profound that this movie can’t help but tickle your heart.
Max goes on an extraordinary journey. Naturally, when he arrives at the island of the Wild Things there is talk of eating him. To prevent this gruesome death, he talks himself up, claiming he has magical powers, and is in fact more powerful than these ginormous monsters.
Those magical powers he allegedly possesses alerted me to his home-life, that he doesn’t have a dad. Sometimes, when a child doesn’t have a father they fantasize about everything a father can do. Because to children, fathers (and mothers!) are gods. They can do anything. As a child, I thought my father knew every fact and that there was no task he couldn’t master, no problem he couldn’t fix. I felt completely protected. And Max thinks of his own absent father that way, and to his surprise, the monsters think of him that way.
Max becomes their father.
At first, this is incredibly liberating for Max but then the burden of perfection weighs on him. In order to solve a problem between Carol and KW, Max proposes a dirt fight, which at first goes swimmingly, but then, as all rough-housing games usually end, somebody gets hurt, and the group disperses. Here, he wasn’t a very good king. But he goes to set things right. He apologizes to Alexander, the weakest link in the monster hierarchy.
When Alexander, the goat, tells Max that he doesn’t believe there is anybody out in the world that has the magical powers Max claimed he had, Max realizes that he may not necessarily be better off with a father, because a father would inevitably upset him at some point too. His father would be just like him, would be just like his mother, who he also realizes that he misses, and loves dearly. This is why Max leaves the island of the Wild Things. Though I think in the book he’s chased away, but the message is the same. That he must leave behind his childhood anger in the personified image of the Wild Things but specifically embodied in Carol.
It is sad, but also, the movie’s important and encouraging. In a way, more so than the book.
I remember the book vaguely. Max is being disobedient and is sent to bed without any supper (an archaic punishment). In his room he dreams up the Wild Things, though the line between fantasy and reality is as distinctly blurred as it is in the film. The main difference is that his mother doesn’t know he’s gone, and therefore Max’s leaving isn’t a punishment to her. Also, when Max returns, from the place she didn’t know he was at, his mother brings him dinner, thus negating his punishment.
But, again, I haven’t read it in a while. I should go out and get a copy.
I found the movie beautiful, nostalgic, magical, and sad.
It was definitely a time-machine.
I highly recommend it to anyone that wants to be a kid again, in a very literal way, not in the way Disney movies remind one of one’s childhood, but in that honest child-like way that most artists strive to replicate.
A friend of mine also discusses Where the Wild Things Are. Check out Rebecca Serle’s blog, Nurturing Narratives, from which this post sprang.