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Monday, October 19, 2009

Where the Wild Things...something something

There was a mother and her three young kids sitting behind us at 'Where the Wild Things Are' Sunday afternoon. A proper Upper West Side mother, dressed just so, with her three kids groomed and fed--but not too fed--and similarly just-so dressed. The kids ranged in ages from maybe four to eight. The mother ranged in ages from 30 to 40, depending on her doctor and work-out regimen.

"When will the movie start?" the youngest kid, of indeterminate sex, whined, balancing a small cup of ice water on one knee, which was drawn up to his or her chin.

"When your father gets here," the mother said. She was turned away from the child, tending to the 8 year old, who had spilled granola into his lap. The mother was picking the pieces of granola off of the kid's clothing and returning them to the container the kid was clutching in one hand.

I wasn't sure if she was being glib or if the kids' father was the projectionist, or if she actually hoped to impress upon the children a sense of the father's godlike power. When will the movie begin? When your father says so, and fuck the 300 other people in this theater who expect it to begin at 4:30.

And yet, just as I heard the kids behind us shout out, "Daddy!" the previews began.

The kids didn't last the entire movie. Three minutes in, despite their mother's continued and spirited attempts to narrate EVERY FUCKING SECOND of the movie to them, the kids began to echo each other: "Can we go? I want to go. When will this be over?"

The kids left 10 minutes before the end. I heard the family pull out and head for the exit (and felt them, as well, since each family member made it a solemn duty to bump against the back of my seat). If the parents had left when the kids asked to leave--at the beginning of the movie--Greg and I would've been spared the constant motherly narration, and the needling questions from her three perfect snowflake children. The father, demonstrably God of the Multiplex, said nothing at all.

"Why is he jumping on the bed?" one of the kids asked.

"Because he's angry at his sister. It's a bad thing to jump on the bed."

"But why is he mad?"

"Because. Look at his wet feet on the bed. That's just awful. Shame on him."

A little later, after the first sighting of the Wild Things: "That wasn't scary. Mom, you said it'd be scary. I wasn't scared. Were you scared, Mom? Why is that one breaking all the houses?"

At one point, a cube of ice sailed over the back of my chair and hit me on the top of the head, bounced, and ricocheted off Greg's glasses. Greg looked at me, and I tightened my grip on his hand, and then we... continued watching the movie. Said nothing. We did not turn around to glare, or to accept an apology. Kids--sometimes ice comes out of them.

I liked the movie. Greg didn't. Greg's reasons are his own, so he's welcome to share them in his own way, but the reason I liked the movie is because it was like a Bergman film for children: depressing, ponderous, beautiful, and full of whimsical scenes that quickly became malevolent. A silent God. Whatever. The film was a children's version of "Wild Strawberries."

Wait, no. That's not entirely right. I mean it is right, in a way, because jesus christ the film is so bleak, and, you know, say what you want about the wonders of a child's imagination, in the end the reason children have imagination is because they're fighting against the reality they'll eventually be forced to accept. But it's not right, too, because inside the movie's bleakness is an understanding that you never actually lose your imagination; you just, I don't know, use it to get overcreative with your PowerPoint slides.

There were a lot of kids at our matinee. And a lot of old people, and childless couples. The only people talking during the movie were the kids behind us, who were using their mother as a filter for the film, and she was happy to be that filter, never once tiring of her own narration, her own interpretation, feeding it to her kids like a mother bird barfing up digested berries to her baby birds. And, as I said, they were gone 10 minutes til the end, after one final, "I wanna go, can't we go." Maybe because the father needed to switch the projection off and rewind the reels.

But the kids who remained? The lot of them in their seats? When the credits began to roll, those kids started howling like wild things. I howled too. Lots of adults did, Greg included. Love the movie or hate it, it's still fun to have an excuse to howl in public.

Oh. "...and it was still hot" remains the best ending to any book ever, of all time.

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