Monday, January 14, 2013

Beasts of the Southern Wild - DVD Review

Starring Quvenzhane Wallis, Dwight Henry and Lowell Landes. Directed by Benh Zeitlin.


I'm glad I saw this before the Oscar nominations were announced. I've been sitting on it for a while because I've been trying to piece together what I feel about it.  The fact that I'm still puzzling over it is a plus in its favor.  But it's also one where I enjoy the experience of thinking about it afterwards than actually watching it at the time.

The movie glorifies those living in extreme poverty as saints.  It takes place in the Bathtub, a forgotten strip of land south of the levees in Louisiana where the handful of residents live in rundown, make-shift houses propped up on stilts.  No sane person should live there, but these few people are stubborn.  That, and they're so poor their only other option seems to be homelessness.

The movie centers on 6-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis), and the movie is seen through her eyes. She's being raised by her single dad Wink (Dwight Henry), and she loves him, even if he's scary sometimes.  As adults, we can see he should lose custody of her, and there's all kinds of child-endangerment issues going on. For starters, he has her live in her own house, where she cooks breakfast by turning on the gas stove and lighting it with a blowtorch. On one hand, I got a kick out of the survivor-mindset but on the other hand, that child's going to burn her house down.  Also, when Wink gets upset, he slaps her.  Maybe it's because I have a 6-year-old daughter of my own, but I spent most of the movie wanting someone to "save that child!"

There isn't really much plot to it.  One day the rains come and flood the Bathtub, and so the residents take to their pieced-together boats and just stay afloat until the waters recede, also avoiding detection from any government agency that might force them to leave.  Hushpuppy envisions ancient beasts unfrozen by the storm, roaming the Earth once more, and heading down to the Bathtub.  I thought for a while the Beasts were going to take the story on a more magical slant, but after a while it was clear that wasn't going to happen.

It lingers like a childhood dream, which is why I can't dismiss it.  The memory of the journey is better than the actual experience.  I suppose it's worthy seeing if you go on in knowing you're not getting a movie, you're getting an Art Film.

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