Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

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Content written by Tony Macklin. Originally published on July 11, 2012 on tonymacklin.net.

The contemporary world is smitten with "Reality Shows."

The new indie movie phenomenon Beasts of the Southern Wild should fit right in. It could be called "Louisiana Shore." It has a crowd of noisy people, who swill beer and nonsense.

I think I saw Snooki in it or was that just a hulking auroch? Or I may have seen Snooki in water up to her open maw.

Like a beloved reality show, Beasts of the Southern Wild is full of yelling, squealing, and throwing things. "You da man" is the relentless tagline.

But Beasts of the Southern Wild has aspirations to sublimity. The six-year old heroine - with the inapt name Hushpuppy - in her purple-prose narration talks about the universe a lot. For a while I thought I had walked into a Terence Malick visit into the Bayou.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is a rendering by Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) living with her dying father Wink (Dwight Henry) in a mythical area called "The Bathtub."

They and their motley cohorts have to endure the ravages of nature and try to survive in a dangerous, water-covered expanse.

Hushpuppy is precocious and given to poetic pronouncements about her - and our - everlasting imprints in the universe. Audiences - whether in Jersey, Louisiana, or wherever - really like to hear about their eternal importance.

Quvenzhane Wallis does have impressive presence as Hushpuppy, but I'm not sure it's immortal acting talent as giddy reviewers seem to suggest.

Beasts of the Southern Wild won awards at Cannes and Sundance. Weary-festival attendees became euphoric about the wonder of it, especially since it was accomplished on such a low budget.

Director Benh Zeitlin and his cinematographer Ben Richardson use a lot of antic camera work - shots jerk and blur.

There are several references to aurochs - powerful, mythic creatures from the past. There is a masterly shot of Hushpuppy facing a monstrous auroch, but it's a long time coming.

Zeitlin cowrote the screenplay with Lucy Alibar, loosely adapting her play. The dialogue is a mouthful.

Wink says to Hushpuppy, 'I'm going to tell you the story of your conception." That's what every six-year old wants to hear.

Another time Hushpuppy says, "No crying."

Wink says, "No crying."

But have no fear, sentimentalists, they both cry.

Hushpuppy steals the movie. Beast of the Southern Wild is a slice of deep fried cornymeal.

It's pleased a bunch of people.

In the film there's a boat named Grumpy. I took it and fled from "reality."


You might be interested in reading my most recent reviews, all of my reviews from this year, or all of my reviews from last year.

For a change of pace, you might want to listen to interviews that I conducted in the 70s and 80s, some of which were published in my book Voices from the Set: The Film Heritage Interviews (2000).


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