Where The Wild… I Mean The Clinically Depressed Things Are…

October 29th, 2009


 If you have any suicidal tendencies at all, I would strongly recommend against viewing the film, Where The Wild Things Are based on the book written by Maurice Sendak.  Despite what some of the readers of this blog think, I have relatively sound mental health, but I almost shot myself in the parking lot as I left this movie and during the film, I attempted to hang myself three times with a noose made out of a twizzler.  

Aside from the fact that this somewhat odd version of Maurice Sendak’s story plunged me into an abyss from which I almost did not return, I did like the film.  The ‘Wild Things’ or as I would more accurately describe them based on the movie’s interpretation – ‘the extremely, extremely, way extremely, super extremely melancholy things’ – are like people without any pretense.  They are creatures without any emotional defenses. They lack the human shellac of a hearty ho ho! Every moment in their lives is an excruciatingly honest moment.  They say exactly what they are feeling and they are almost always feeling intense emotional pain.

“No one ever listens to me.”

“Why are you talking to him and not me?”

“You like him more than me don’t you?”

“Is she your favorite?”

“Why do we do everything his way?”

etc, etc, etc…

The big birdy creatures in this re-telling of Sendaks’ story, were clearly not raised by German protestants on the High Plains of Kansas.  Their dads never mentioned the stiff upper lip and their mothers never taught them how to feign delight at a plateful of Aunt Margaret’s lima beans just for the sake of family peace.

Instead, The Wild Things are all a bunch of Eeyores and even though Max tries very hard to turn things around by playing the roles of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Owl and Christopher Robin all at the same time, he cannot stop the overwhelming tidal wave of hurt and resentment flowing towards him from these creatures.


We never learn why Max’s creatures are in so much pain.  It could be that they all represent different characters in Max’s life.  It could be that they are symbols for the selfish ‘out of control’ beast that Max must leave behind if he is to find peace.  It could be that they are just manic depressive figures that everyone must combat on a daily basis. Whatever they are, there is one thing that seems to cure them, if only temporarily, and that is sleeping in a pile.  If they could just all curl up together, they were suddenly able to get along… if only for a few hours.  

I have to agree with the potency of this ‘sleeping in a pile’ prescription.  It may be one of life’s cure-alls.  It made me think of camping, when my whole family sleeps close together in a tent.. or when my boys were small and regularly slept in our bed.  Sleeping in a pile…even though there isn’t much actual sleeping that happens due to the the pile part – there is a lot of intrinsic joy in a mass of sleeping bodies curled up beside you.  You can reach out and pull them close, tuck in the covers, wipe the sweaty curls off their foreheads, all whilst attempting to pull the elbows out of your back, the foot out of your neck and breathe in the contentment of a family at peace…

Until the next morning when someone remembers…

You don’t ever listen to me….

You don’t like me do you?…

Why are you staring at me that way?…

He’s your favorite isn’t he?…


The magic of the sleeping pile never seems to last very long.


  • I saw this movie.

    I almost cried.

    I maybe cried.

    I cried only one tear.

    MAYBE only two.

    I also had some twizzlers.

  • I found the book very sad – don’t think I’ll be able to see the film without bawling all the way through.

    I LOVE the sleeping in a pile thing – so soothing and comforting!

  • Kelsie:

    I saw it last night.

    I cried.

    And I only recommend it to people who a). were angsty children b). can appreciate metaphor and c). are not planning on dragging anyone under 12 to see it.

    Beautiful film…I love your assessment of it.

  • The book scared me as a kid, so I never read it. Now the movie is scaring me–and I haven’t even seen it–so I’m going to pass!!! Good review, though!


  • Southern Gal:

    I’ve never read the book. I never read it to my children either. Just the idea of monsters as a bedtime story was hard to swallow…our bed would be full every night with nightmare-ridden children. I read on Yahoo how parents were so disappointed when they took their children to see it. They were under the impression it was a children’s movie. Apparently not.
    Thanks for the review.

  • Leigh:

    We are huge fans of the book at our house. Have been since our 6 and 4 year old boys were tiny. We don’t find the book scary at all… but maybe that’s because we make up words for the pages that have no words during the wild rumpus. Words like “And they say naughty words, ba ba boom, ba ba boom, and they broke mommy’s china. ba ba boom, ba ba boom. And they did the hokey pokey and they turned themselves around.”

    We went to see the movie as a family. My 6-year-old son and I cried our eyes out. He had to climb onto my lap after the movie and be comforted, which really is so sweet. And my 4-year-old thought it was great and wanted to watch it again. Apparently he’s too young to pay attention to all the hurt (which is really pretty OK with me).

    I guess what we talked about after the movie that worked for us, is that Max left the Wild Things with the knowledge that someone else can’t make you happy. It’s something you have to work for. Carroll wanted someone to come in and fix his world to make him happy all the time without doing any of the work to make that happen. We’re responsible for our own happiness.

    It didn’t make me feel suicidal, and despite all the tears I really did love it. I also cried at Hotel for Dogs, so really… tears come easily for me. Great review as always!

  • What a very insightful (and witty) review! See, I’ve only seen the previews, and I’ve been hard-put to figure out exactly what the movie is about. The previews pretty much show the entire book, so I’m wondering what else there is with which to fill the rest of that hour-and-a-half.

    Hurt bickering and pile-sleeping. Now I know.

  • Leigh – on the pages with no words – we always say ‘rumpa pumpa pumpa! – rumpa pumpa pumpa! – I have always wondered what other people did. I am going to add that question to this article.

  • Vicki A:

    I took my 8 year old son to see this and we both hated it! Way too depressing and not very interesting. Definitely do not recommend this for kids. Not quite my interpretation of the book, which I loved as a child.

  • Interesting. When I saw that they were going to make it into a movie, my immediate thought was, “There is no way I’m going to see that. They will simply ruin the book.” It’s hard for me to know how you could make a two hour movie from a short children’s book and not ruin it. Anyway, I appreciate your review. I probably still won’t go to see it, but it’s nice to know what it’s like.

  • I enjoyed the review and found it insightful. I loved the movie. I saw it alone, which might be the best way to see this movie. I’m a thin-skinned monster.

    David Eggers wrote the screenplay, and last night I watched Away We Go, which he also wrote. It’s also a wonderful movie.

  • I agree with SmallTownRunner. I can only imagine how badly Hollywood could mess up a classic. We haven’t seen it yet. We’ll probably wait until it comes out on dvd so we can vet it first. Sure glad we did that with the 2nd Transformers movie. You can read my rant about that piece of work here:


  • Okie dokie then. I will wait and get this from Netflix and watch it alone with a big box of Kleenex and only the Twizzler bits which you can’t really use to hang yourself. I frequently cry in movies. It all started when I was very small when my mother took me to watch Bambi in the theater. (Ack! Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, happy thoughts happy thoughts happy thoughts!)

    I was not a particularly angsty kid; that would be my brother. I am the optimist, the survivor, the whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger sibling. I just empathize too easily and that causes me to cry over books and movies and the stoopid Christmas Shoes song. Have I mentioned here before that this makes my husband and children laugh? Heartless sons of…wait a second! I also appreciate metaphor. I think that means I will both love and hate this movie!

  • Great review – thanks! I think I’ll pass at least til Netflix.

  • Laura:

    Loved the review Rechelle!
    Also, I have to admit, I love sleeping in a pile. It’s my favorite way to sleep. I agree it’s peaceful, but that it doesn’t last very long. Not sure if I’ll see the movie. Someday, though, when it’s on TV and I hope I can remember your movie review and put away the twizzlers.

  • That was beautiful.