I went to see Where the Wild Things Are for my birthday. With a little trepidation, of course. If you love a book dearly and know it damn near by heart, you feel protective of the story. Right or wrong, it is woven into your life and there is a wonky sense of ownership.
Simply put, the movie was wonderful. Those that criticized the pace as slow have spent too much time in the world of Transformers. This is a story. A story you tell your children as they drift off to sleep. The creation of Max's backstory was surprisingly illuminating and seamless. His behavior even more dimensional with those layers.
Among the more wonderful aspects was keeping the truth of Sendak's non-Manichean world. Love is mixed with fear is mixed with violence. When the monsters pile up to sleep it is warm and comforting and dangerous for Max. When he urges the dirt clod fight it is fun and exciting and hurtful. But the undercurrent remains an unsentimental love.
And this gem: Max's costume becomes filthier and filthier throughout the adventure. I can't express how delightful that is.
It is a reminder to me of my lifelong fear of and fascination with "rough-housing." God, that expression sounds dated. But here is the way it went: wrestling and fun-fighting started out with laughter and always ended with tears. With adults or just children. I began to fear chaotic energy because it was associated anger and hurt. I am sorry that I don't enjoy the wild rumpus enough.
That said, the story shook the kaleidoscope of maternal memories more profoundly. I'm sure I'm not alone in this. Nonetheless, that was my Wild Thing. My own boy. Swirling in a world of fear and love and anger. And guilt and sweetness. So clear a snapshot of the world from his point of view. The blur of love and anguish from that time came back into brilliant, harsh focus. It was overwhelming. Overwhelming.
So when a towering muppet with James Gandolfini's voice begins to cry, it was the last straw: I cried my fool head off in a public place. Thank god movie theaters are dark.