Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile Previous Previous Next Next
Beasts of the Southern Wild - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Directing: A-
Acting: A-
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B+
Editing: A-

Honestly I think Beasts of the Southern Wild is a little over-hyped. Critics are just falling over themselves to praise this movie. You know what? It didn't change my life.

Then again, neither can I find anything particularly wrong with it. By and large I would have to agree with the great things other people are saying about it. It's worth seeing. It's something different. It presents a world experienced by too many but seen by too few, and it shimmers with authenticity -- even in spite of its occasional fantastical flourishes.

It's been fairly widely reported that nonprofessional actors were cast for this movie, most particularly the two main roles of Hushpuppy (an awesome Quvenzhané Wallis) and her dad, Wink (Dwight Henry, a Louisiana baker). This works very well for this movie, and yet is not exactly a broad showcase for acting talent. No clips hear scream "Oscar reel." But that's fine: this is not an Oscar-bait kind of movie. And besides, these characters feel unusually real, probably because they are played by people all too familiar with the real-world circumstances on which the film is based.

The setting is an island called The Bathtub. It's clearly poverty-stricken. Wink and Hushpuppy float around in a makeshift boat made out of the bed of a pickup truck, propelled by what appears to be a leaf blower. Hushpuppy lives in a rickety trailer set high on stilts. Hushpuppy's mom is gone; we don't know why -- Wink told Hushpuppy she swam away. Wink has an alcohol problem. They have friends equally poor and equally interested in drink.

A turning point occurs when the storm comes and The Bathtub is flooded. Most of the community evacuates, with the exception of Wink, Hushpuppy and their hard-drinking friends (and an apparent teacher, though she doesn't teach in any kind of conventional school). This is maybe halfway through the movie, though; it's not the climax. There's a couple of weeks of flood, continuing devastation, and a very brief detour into the shelter they're forced into by government authorities -- only to stage a breakout and go right back home.

There's a deep feeling of connection to home here, in spite of widespread understanding of the dangers of living there. And it's within that framework that Beasts of the Southern Wild is, fundamentally, a simple story about the relationship between a little girl and her ailing father.

Hushpuppy's fantasies are fueled by her teacher's references to the melting ice caps and gigantic wild boar-type beasts frozen in them. The narrative is peppered with images of these beasts roaming the land, crashing through houses, apparently on their way to Hushpuppy. This is where the movie breaks from its otherwise earnest attachment to straightforward realism. But it switches between that and the mind of a little girl still young enough to believe she can glean messages from the heartbeats of small animals.

There really is something about that little girl, that Quvenzhané Wallis. She has an almost mesmerizing quality. And it's her quality that makes you feel like this is the telling of how Hushpuppy will one day become a singularly strong woman.

Expectations can be tricky business with movies, and I do wonder if I'd be raving more about this movie if I didn't go in thinking it might be the best movie I'd seen in months. I guess it's the best kind of disappointment when it's nearly as good as the best movies I've seen in months.

Dwight Henry (blurred, foreground) and Quvenzhané Wallis are BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD.

Overall: A-
Leave a comment