If I may, I’d like to try and change your mind.
So few people I know love this movie. No one I know (apart from Roma) loves it like I do (which is Ocean deep) and all the conversations I’ve had revolve around the fact that people find it disjointed, fragmented, ramshackle, loud, weird, strange and with truth delivered in a split second which leads to a confusion.
Like childhood? is my response.
And a look comes over their face that shows they didn’t think of it like that. As PT Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love is the best film ever made (in my opinion of course, like all of this) about falling in love, this is the best film ever made (in my opinion) about childhood.
And not only that, it contains a truly valuable, fast disappearing lesson. Trust your children, trust they are not idiots and can listen to their feelings and using the lessons you teach them, of fundamental right and wrong, work out the right thing to do.
Kids are not idiots. They are smarter and more perceptive than we give them credit for.
Max does not understand all that is going on, he gets hints of the truth in snatches as he is mostly alone, through choice and not, and he can’t process it. He runs away where he is confronted by his feelings and his actions and the real world through the cipher of his imagination and he works out the truth for himself. The film moves quickly, in fractures and then slows, and then speeds up again.
You can’t watch it with older eyes, accustomed to a smooth clock, in a life where routines dominate, however small. It’s not like that when we were kids. Events and time are not the same as they are when we get older.
Spike Jonze captures fear, wonderment, loneliness, learning and realisation perfectly. This is an abrupt and dazzling film with incredible characterisations of the Wild Things, a strong, brattish and scared performance by Max Records as, well, Max. The score by Karen O is fantastic, it’s loud and full of hope and instinct. The film looks gorgeous and it makes me cry.
It makes me cry because the realisation at the end of the film, about the realities of the world, represents beautifully and truthfully and powerfully the end of childhood. The loss of innocence.
Get past the unconventional structure, remember what it was like to be a child, and wonder awaits. Genius is here.
I freaking love, love, love this film.
I’ve not left a Tim Burton film floored since Big Fish, a film I know was criticised but spoke to me deeply, with a Father renowned as a great storyteller and orator. His move into digital effects and the eschewing of the hand made, tactile nature of effects has left me cold. The green screen era has dampened Tim’s work for me, just as it has Gilliam. For me Tim will always be the filmmaker of Ed Wood, Beetlejuice, Mars Attacks and Sleepy Hollow.
I liked this film. But I had to detach myself from the feeling that it’s a Tim Burton film. He is a studio filmmaker now and he clearly delivers work for studio heads. Big heads. Talking of big heads Helena Bonham Carter is sensational in this film. Maybe my favourite performance of hers in a TB picture. Depp is as Depp does, the voice work of Stephen Fry and Alan Rickman is superb, and so is that of Barbara Windsor. The costumes are wonderful, the detail and personality are staggering but they don’t sit easily with the digital world. There is just a distance that the digitalising of everything creates that I can’t get over. Some of the ideas are superb but with an increase in technology comes a lack of imagination, weirdly. When you can do anything, the achievement of character is diminished.
I didn’t hate it though. I wasn’t bored. I found Alice suitably glacial. The story is all ‘Hook’ which is no bad thing, because I like the idea of revisiting. The parallels of the characters in the real world and Wonderland were subtle, like they are in the superior and not dissimilar Where The Wild Things Are. It just never felt like a Tim Burton film to me, but then I will admit that my Tim Burton films are not the later ones. Watching this was like watching Gilliam’s Dr Parnassus, the feeling that these filmmakers need to get their hands dirty by creating physical landscapes that match their fantastical minds. Is that just me and my cine-heritage though? I don’t know. Roma remarked how similar it felt to Labyrinth as a world. And she didn’t mind that it was digitally rendered, so maybe it is my issue. I love 3D though. As with Avatar, the immersion in the world grips me. I feel comfortable and absorbed by the new technology, to the point that it’s the gimmicks of screen thrusts that make it feel gimmicky and drag me out of the world created.
I still love Tim, and post-Charlie I’ve got over my feeling of disappointment as he clearly deserves the budget he has on Alice, but to me, if you have to put an Avril Lavigne song over the end credits, is the sacrifice worthwhile?