Tuesday, June 26, 2012

REVIEW: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Quvenzhané Wallis,
Dwight Henry


June 27, 2012 (NY/LA)

Benh Zeitlin

Fox Searchlight Pictures

1 hour 32 minutes



We can all admit that all humans over the age of 10 see life differently than a younger child does.  As kids, we have imaginary friends, believe we see things others don't, and tend to explore our territory quite a lot.  This brings me back to the Nickelodeon show 'Rugrats,' in which everything is shown from the eyes of 5 individual babies.  It's really incredible to see a child's vision of the location of a parent, where heaven is, etc.  However while 'Rugrats' gave a light portrayal in how young kids see life as a whole, 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' offers a more adult like way on a kid's perspective on life.  In fact, the young girl who the audience follows for the 92 minute duration, named Hushpuppy, goes through some serious hell throughout this movie.  And through all of that hell, an unbelievably fantastic film forms from that.  'Beasts' is an emotional, light at times, but visceral and beautiful movie that will end up being one of the strong Oscar contenders of the year.

Hushpuppy is a curious little 7 year old girl who lives with her father, Wink, in a place called "the Bathtub."  The "Bathtub" is a bayou type place where the government cut off the water with a huge wall so the risk of flooding would be decreased for those living outside the Bathtub.  Hushpuppy goes to school, learns, and plays like a kid.  Wink spends his days drunk, hunting, and trying to be a good father to his little girl, which at times is very hard to see.  Circumstances lead to other things happening, and Hushpuppy has to learn how to take care of herself so she can live a good life in the future when her daddy passes away.  She also wants to know exactly where her mother his, because her interpretation of her mom is a bright light in the distance in which she calls out to.

Allow me to just start out by saying that the performances by the two lead actors are nothing short of brilliant.  Quvenzhané Wallis delivers a performance unlike anything any child actor has ever done in the history of cinema.  Hushpuppy is one of those great examples of showing how a child acts and thinks at such a young age, and to have to be the one to carry the entire movie for such a young girl is simply outstanding.  It's just amazing to see how powerful a young girl, who by the way is acting for the very first time, can be.   This is a girl who should have a fantastic future if she continues to act in film.  In fact, her performance in this movie is so great and so gripping that it's actually deserving of many acting awards come awards season in December.  Same goes to Dwight Henry, who is also acting for the first time in this movie.

Dwight Henry's character Wink is the type of person who you don't exactly know if you should like him or hate him for physically abusing Hushpuppy within the first 20 minutes of the movie.  After those 20 minutes, Wink becomes a character who is actually trying to be very supportive and loving of Hushpuppy despite showing it by screaming every single bit of dialogue that's given to him.  Luckily the screaming is played for laughs, and most of the time it does put a smile on your face.  If this guy doesn't at least get strongly considered for a Supporting Actor nomination this year, then there may not be any justice this year in terms of quality acting.  Overall the entire cast, which, other than Wallis and Henry, consisted of a bunch of small characters, performed very well.  However it's really the two leads that shine throughout this movie.

It's great to see first time directors get some recognition this year, or at least small directors who get big breaks.  A prime example of a first time director this year is Drew Goddard, who both wrote and directed the horror film 'The Cabin in the Woods.'  However the small director who got a huge break that many are still talking about now is Joss Whedon, who successfully brought Earth's Mightiest Heroes into one fantastic movie that was 'Marvel's The Avengers.'  The thing that both of those directors have in common is that they have brought something smart and original to the table.  That's exactly what this film's director/writer, Benh Zeitlin does with this film.  He has such a way of portraying Louisiana in a gross, dark place, yet adds some beautiful light to what's going on.  This guy, like Mike Cahill from last year, (director of 'Another Earth') has a potentially solid future in directing if he chooses to make more movies in the years to come.  If he does decide to make something in the future, know that I will look forward to see that film when it premieres in America.

Overall, 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' is a deep, emotional, yet beautiful and pure film that is well deserving of awards and an audience.  The performances are all fantastic, especially the award worthy performances from Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry. Benh Zeitlin proves to have some true and natural talent, hopefully leading to a very successful career in the future.  The story may be a little predictable, but it's all saved by the pot of emotions that are poured on you at the same time, with the best thing that they all mix well together.  If you're not looking for a dramatic indie to check out, then you might want to look for a more quirky movie like 'Moonrise Kingdom,' which also happens to focus around kid actors.  However if you are looking for a dramatic story about a young child, then this is what you may want to check out.  'Beasts of the Southern Wild' is a prime example of how a bunch of newcomers can create something that is pure magic throughout.


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