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Beasts of the Southern Wild– Movie Review

Submitted by on August 10, 2012 – 4:42 pm4 Comments

Don’t be fooled by the adorable little girl in the trailer: Beasts of the Southern Wild, this summer’s indie darling, is no kid’s movie. But in fact, it’s the innocent and fantastical perspective of 6-year-old narrator Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) that makes the harsh realities of this film into a magical experience.

The film follows Hushpuppy, her ailing father (Dwight Henry), and the residents of her defiant Louisiana community, The Bathtub. Only a few dozen people live in this town south of the protection of the levees- and even fewer stick around to ride out a storm reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina that destroys everything they know. Hushpuppy’s idea of a universe completely in balance is deeply challenged, and she and her bayou family must fight to regain the purpose they believe in.

Beasts begins in a world of light and magic- the residents of The Bathtub celebrate more holidays than anyone else in the world, Hushpuppy tells us. The celebration seems to include lots of fireworks, alcohol, and shaky, out-of-focus camera work that creates beautiful chaos.

But director Benh Zeitlin quickly addressed some obvious questions: just who lives in this hedonistic, impoverished town? Hushpuppy’s father is independent to the point of being suicidal; he’s also clearly alcoholic. The other residents of the town are similarly troubled. But Hushpuppy’s eye views them without judgement, showing us also the love and trust of the only home she knows.

Zeitlin offers us a smartly and darkly inverted fairy tale. In almost all such stories, a heroine emerges from exile in the wilderness, and reclaims her rightful place in society. In Beasts, Hushpuppy emerges from the wilderness… to reclaim her rightful place in the wilderness. But the scenes shot outside The Bathtub were equally beautiful, equally affected by Hushpuppy’s innocent (and at times confused) eye. The sights of Hushpuppy cleaned up and standing in the sanitary white walls of a hospital, or dancing in a dive bar, were surprisingly affecting, and further heighten the audience’s understanding of Hushpuppy’s love for the untamed, dirty beauty of home.

Did you see Beast of the Southern Wild? What did you think?

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