Monday, February 18, 2013

Beasts of the Southern Wild review

This was a weird movie. That thought was ringing through my head while I was watching Beasts of the Southern Wild, a movie that I had always hoped to see, but never did. And it is weird. But beneath all the quirkiness of the characters and the community, along with the absurd plausibility of the apocalyptic story, lies some interesting themes and thought-provoking questions that I didn't expect when I decided to watch this movie. I can't say I really enjoyed Beasts of the Southern Wild and I can't say that I understand why people love it so much, but I can say that I think that it is a well made and interesting look at life filled with authentic performances.

Beasts of the Southern Wild follows Hushpuppy (Quvenshane Wallis), a young girl living with her dad (Dwight Henry) in the Louisiana bayou. The section they live in is called the bathtub and it is cut off from the rest of the world and basically the poorest of the poor. One day, the South Pole begins melting and the bathtub will soon be flooded. The rest of the film follows the pair as they attempt to survive the disastrous situation.

After watching the film, I couldn't help but think that if this film's ability to make you think along with the ambition had been injected into Life of Pi, that film would have been a whole lot better. Beasts has a lot of questions in it and doesn't answer them all. I love it when a film does that. It just makes it so much more magical and terrifying at the same time. That's why I didn't like Life of Pi. It tried to do that but it failed miserably. That's not the best part of the film though.

The best part is the two performances from the leads. Dwight Henry is really, really good as Hushpuppy's father and in any other normal year, he gets a best supporting actor nomination. What is amazing to me is that Henry was just a delivery man that Benh Zeitlin picked to make the film. That's really cool. But the best performance comes from (no surprise) Quvenshane Wallis. At first, I was unsure about how good she was in the role. Honestly, she doesn't have much dialogue. But there is just this subtlety and power to her performance, especially in the fantastic second half of the film.

I loved the second half of the film. I think that the film meanders quite a bit in the middle, but it eventually finds its footing. It poses a lot of questions about why the characters are so stubborn and why they are determined to stay in the Bathtub. I'm not sure that other people got that from the film but I thought that the whole hospital section was very intriguing. I was asking myself questions, which I rarely do in films. I also really liked the musical score of the movie. It isn't something a lot of people are talking about, but I noticed it and in a good way.

But this is not a perfect film like one may suspect from the raves it is getting. Benh Zeitlin's direction wasn't great and I don't think that he should have been recognized by the Academy for his work, when a far superior film was made by a different director (Argo). Zeitlin does the traditional indie movie shakey-cam thing, which annoys me beyond belief. Just put your camera on a tri-pod!!! Jeez.

Also, the film struggles to find its footing. Its epic, destruction-laced plot pulls you in, but once it does, it kind of just sits there for a while. Once the storm hits, the characters don't do anything. They rely too much on the actors and it doesn't work. The lack of dialogue was kind of surprising too, considering how well all the actors deliver their lines.

At first I was skeptical, but Beasts of the Southern Wild ends up being an enjoyable and interesting trip to a place that no one has really explored in a film before. It wasn't perfect but I think that it is worth a watch. But it certainly isn't for everyone. And then, like Lincoln, it isn't a film that I would watch again but it still is worth watching once.

THE FINAL GRADE: B-                                            (6.6/10)

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