Movie Review: “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Published by Clay Cane on Monday, December 10, 2012 at 12:00 pm.

(Photo: Courtesy Court 13 Productions)Summary: Directed by Benh Zeitlin, a six-year-old struggles with poverty, an abusive and mentally ill father and a forgotten community in the bayou. But it is her imagination that helps her survive.

Review: A star is born in Quvenzhane Wallis. She wonderfully plays Hushpuppy in a high-art film that struggles with plot hiccups, but shines because of this gifted child’s bright light. Almost like a dancer, Wallis floats across the screen, putting the audience in a trance. She is fascinating to watch in a film that wouldn’t work without her captivating aura. Even though Wallis is only a child, Hushpuppy is the role she was meant to play.

Beasts
mainly relies on the imagination of a six-year-old, therefore, at times the plot is muddy. Bouncing around in the character’s mind made the film a chore to watch, but not without endearing moments. This is Benh Zeitlin’s first film and he shows huge promise, well-deserving of the praise the film has received. Rarely is there such a diverse film that uses fantasy and magic as a storyline, especially with lead actors of color and told in the context of a bayou community. The good certainly outweighs the challenging in Beasts of the Southern Wild.

An unsung presence in the film is Dwight Henry as Hushpuppy’s father, who never acted previously. In real life, he was a survivor of Hurricane Katrina and a co-owner of a bakery shop in New Orleans. Although Henry was hesitant, the filmmakers insisted he play Hushpuppy’s dad and the rest is Beasts of the Southern Wild history. It was fascinating to see a man who has never stepped on a film set a day in his life and conquer such a demanding role.

Though the majority of the flick is completely nonsensical, you can’t deny the movie’s beauty. As a viewer, you must channel your inner child. When playtime and imagination was escapism — that is the moment where the film clicks. Wallis as Hushpuppy has nothing but her thoughts to save her. She is a survivor of poverty and finds the beautiful in the ugly. Unconventional, but Beasts of the Southern Wild is the film with the biggest heart of 2012.

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