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Beasts of the Southern Wild (Flack’s Review)

Posted on | October 19, 2012 | Add Comments

Beasts Of The Southern WildBeasts of the Southern Wild is about a girl named Hushpuppy, who lives in a poor place called  The Bathtub, located in the New Orleans area. She lives with her alcoholic father Wink who lives in another house next door. But then her father starts to go missing for days. Despite the help of the loving yet gruff neighbors of The Bathtub she must survive on her own and she wonders what is going on with her dad. Then her father returns and tries to push her away.  Hushpuppy longs for his attention and wants understand what is going on.

The winner of the Best Film award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and Best Cinematography at Cannes, plus many others. However it’s almost best not to know that the movie has won multiple awards before you watch the film, because it makes the film seem larger than it actually is. Even if the praise was well deserved it’s a bit too much for the film’s shoulders to carry. That said the film is amazing, but not flawless.

The actors had almost no experience acting and the very few who did had been in short films, most of which were directed by Benh Zeitlin, the director of this movie. However they are all astonishing. Dwight Henry and Quvenzhane Wallis are particular standouts, after all they’re the only ones who have that much dialogue. There’s a possibility that one or both could earn Oscar nominations for the film. Henry is terrific and moving in the father role showing both love and anger. Wallis is also great in what is likely to be a career spawning role. And it seems as if they will become professional actors. After all they both have roles in the upcoming 12 Years A Slave starring Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Paul Dano. The other actors in Beasts are simply suitable which is fine because if they had meaty characters it would distract from the central storyline.

Benh Zeitlin does a great job directing. The film is very complex and all the shots feel like they need to be there which shows that Zeitlin is a precise, acurate, and very talented director. After this amazing indie debut it will be interesting to see if he heads to Hollywood or stays where he is. I think he’ll make some more indies and then head off to make some bigger budget dramas in Hollywood. No matter what he does he will always be remembered for this great debut.

Beasts Of The Southern WildThe flaw that the film held for me was that unlike other movies there wasn’t an immediate love for it from me. My favorite movies get me excited and have something that makes you drawn to them. Oddly that just wasn’t here. It’s also a bit slow in the middle. Not that it has to be fast paced but there has to be interesting things happening.

I was expecting a more existential story with a Tree of Life vibe to it but instead we get a linear drama with just a couple of fantastical touches. Which isn’t a problem. In fact the heartstring pulling ending works. If you often cry at movies you will at this one. I also liked how the film brings up questions of is that real or not? Wait what about this? It adds a complex but fascinating layer to an already mysterious movie. Zeitlin also handles the fantasy elements well: by not making the film a complete fantasy. It’s  a realistic world that Hushpuppy and her father live in. There’s no fairies, flying, or wizards. It’s mostly a drama, and a well done one at that.

My favorite character is Hushpuppy. She’s strong, independent, brave, resourceful, and wants to help her dad. Quvenzhane Wallis is great and should get Oscar nominated.

My favorite scene is the end. It’s sad and moving. I do not want to say what happens because that would spoil the movie.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is rated PG-13 for thematic material including child imperilment, some disturbing images, language, and some brief sensuality by the MPAA. I would rate it PG-13 for sadness, swearing, a gross image, some peril, and minor talk of romance.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is a fantastic movie. Even if it’s not my favorite one I liked it alot more than I didn’t and anyone who seriously loves movies will want to see this.  If you want a great late summer movie treat this is a good one. Moving. Emotional. Likely to be Oscar nominated. The film is an astonishing piece of movie artwork. See it.

Here’s a behind the scenes featurette about the making of the movie. However, if you haven’t seen the film you won’t want to watch this video because it spoils the ending. You’ve been warned!

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