Beasts of the Southern Wild

You may have noticed there has been a bit of a gap between this review and the last post; specifically, twenty-nine days, which in internet posting time is the equivalent of normal time span converted to dog years. I’m assuming readers thought I had died, which would have been a real shame because that would mean the last movie I saw would have been Hope Springs. The real story is not quite as dramatic, but filled with irony and social injustice. Some mofo broke into my house and stole my computer. I’m sure it was just a petty thief looking for something small and expensive to fence, but stealing my laptop did more than just deprive me of my daily updates from ew.com; it also left thousands hundreds some people anxiously awaiting their next flicksthatmakesick post and feeling abandoned when none was forthcoming. In a world that is cold and unpredictable, the least I can do is be there for you every ten days or so. Man’s inhumanity to man (or his meth addiction) will not break my spirit, and I shall continue to blog in a timely fashion as the future unfolds before us. Let’s hear it for renter’s insurance!

And speaking of man’s inhumanity to man …. wow, that’s a pretty terrible segue, but you know how they say that your muscles start to break down within three days after you stop working out? Same thing with writing. I’m going to just jump into this review because there is no way to save this transition.

A wild celebration of colored lights, music and fireworks is showcased in the opening sequence of Beasts of the Southern Wild. A swamp-filled bayou community of shotgun shacks and mind numbing poverty called The Bathtub seems like a fantasy world when viewed through the eyes of six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), a self-sufficient wild child who barely survives the negligent care of her alcoholic father but is possessed with a spirit that is as powerful as the beasts she fears that are on their way. The mythical tale unfolds as a fable, yet the ever-present specter of the low-lying Louisiana delta and the approaching monster storm make it impossible to miss the parallels to real life. Despite her young age, Hushpuppy is a survivor who is always prepared. After her father has gone missing, she muses “If daddy don’t get back soon, I’m going to have to eat my pets.”

The film is gorgeous; the rusty collection of metal and wood that give shelter as well as threaten tetanus combine to make a surrealistic skyline of junk surrounded by the ever-present sea. After the hurricane, the rising waters threaten to overtake everything and Hushpuppy and her father motor through the debris in a boat made from the flatbed of a pick-up truck. This film looks like Waterworld should have, with a little Cave of Forgotten Dreams thrown in for good measure. The beasts of the title are Aurochs, mythical prehistoric unfrozen cavemen-like creatures that haunt Hushpuppy and hint toward the coming apocalypse. Whether the movie is supposed to be reality or a fantasy that is filtered through the six-year old’s imagination is immaterial; the resilience and backbone of this remarkable character make you cheer for her and her people. The performance of Quvenzhané Wallis is truly astonishing—apparently she was five when she first auditioned. I predict that she will be the youngest ever Academy Award nominee for Best Actress.

Any movie involving things floating in water is going to be going up and down a lot and Beasts director Benh Zeitland makes it worse by shooting with a hand-held camera. But I have to forgive and embrace the technique here, because everything about this film and its characters is so much about living right on the edge of society and walking a shaky tightrope of survival that the unbalanced feeling only enhances the plot. Just sit reeeaally far back.

Barf Bag Rating: THREE BAGS

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