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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Beasts of the Southern Wild - Review (2012)

Hushpuppy's story is one of those magical little kids whose life experiences make here wise beyond her years.  Living in extreme poverty in part of the bayou cut off from the rest of the world called "the Bathtub, her mother has been gone for years leaving her alone with her tough love, constantly verbally abusive father who teaches her to be stronger as he grows weaker, oh yeah, there are also bizarre awkward fitting cameos giant prehistoric horned boar-beasts.

As a storm of epic proportions approaches life goes on as usual for the citizens of The Bathtub who are too proud, too stubborn or too stupid to get out of harms way.  Instead, they spend their times drinking, telling mystical tales and partying.  For a portion of the film I was captivated by the film; a slice of life I was unfamiliar with, a strong-willed little girl surviving in conditions mast of us could only have nightmares about, anticipating where it was all going what would we see, what would we learn.  Around halfway through I realized this was not going to happen.  No matter what I anticipated or hoped for the film was not going to provide these answers, instead of a journey we follow along an bunch of aimless wanderings.  It is overreaching on its too many themes, not providing the focus it needed to make it a more satisfying tale.  At the same time the film almost drops narrative with long stretches of aimless walking and time spent in makeshift floating devices that make their point then becoming repetitive.  

People will make the case that this is the world as seen through the eyes of a six year old on her own personal journey, but I really think that would just be an excuse.  My guess is the first time director, Benh Zeitlin, had a lose narrative in mind and then followed around Wallis through numerous photogenic environments hoping to capture some beautiful imagery then put some pseudo-enlightened narrative over it to try tie it together.  Maybe I am being a little dense and , but the metaphor for the giants beasts never quite made sense for me and seemed underdeveloped and unnecessary, taking away from the time that would have better spent with additional scenes between the father and daughter.

I understand this film was made for about $2 million,  that is not an excuse to jack up the score.  While the film is deserving of some praise for certain elements, little Quvenzhane Wallis' performance as Hushpuppy is admirable for a girl her age even if her delivery is monotone for the most part she is a great starer and the cinematography is beautiful - the story, although beautiful and emotional at times never uses its parts to form a cohesive whole.   It feels like a short film stretched out to feature film length, a wandering poem rather than a tale.  After all is said and done you can't help but wonder, what did we just watch, was there anything profound or just a bunch of mumble jumble mysticism of a storyteller looking to piece together some interesting, yet hollow elements.

6.0 out of 10

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