Monday, April 15, 2013

Monday Matinee: Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

I've talked more than once about how interesting this year's batch of Oscar movies were, and how for the first time in...ever?...I've actually wanted to see them all.  However, I don't think this movie even passed through Orlando.  

I knew almost nothing about it.  Except that the little girl, whose name you can't pronounce, was the youngest nominee for Best Actress, at the age of 9 (she was 6 when the movie was filmed).  

Immediately it was clear that this movie was just a little different.  

Hushpuppy and her father live in a southern Louisiana community called the "bathtub"...an island of sorts that is isolated from land by a levee.  The community is small, poor, and revolves around survival off the land and drinking moonshine.  Hushpuppy's mother left in the early days, but her little girl still talks to her and fantasizes about finding her one day.  Hushpuppy's father is inconsistent and ill-tempered, disappearing for days on end, leaving his 5 year-old to fend for herself.  But both are fierce survivors, and believe in the future of their home.
   
Their lives are threatened by an oncoming storm, then they must contend with the subsequent flooding and rescue workers who want to take the bathtub's inhabitants to a shelter.  When Hushpuppy's father falls ill, she goes in search of her mother. The little girl also imagines the arrival of prehistoric creatures that have emerged from the melting Arctic icecaps.


So...the plot is wandering.  I was never quite sure where it was going, or what was up with this giant warthog-looking animals.  I felt that the real draw for the film was obviously this little girl, who I believe totally deserved recognition for her role in this film.  For someone so young, she had a strength of character that transcended the aimless direction of the film.  She has a presence that was almost magical.  I was also entertained by the actor who played her father.  I learned that he had absolutely NO acting background...he owned a bakery near the film studio and befriended the crew, who instantly knew that he was THE MAN.  This gentleman knew the culture, had lived through Katrina, and wore this more practical experience in his heart and on his face.  

The other draw for the film is the location.  I guess I know intuitively that places like the bathtub DO exist, but I felt like I was watching inhabitants on another planet.  The conditions were deplorable, especially for children.  The lack of schooling (except the practical kind that helps them survive), the lack of parenting or supervision, the certainty of disease-infested waters.  But in that environment was also a freedom, in a crazy kind of way.

Based on what I have read, this movie was very divisive amongst critics.  Some thought it a thing of beauty, others felt that it was insulting, racist and sexist.  

Me?  I'd be somewhere in the middle.  I wasn't offended by anything I saw here.  I thought it was disturbing from a parental point of view.  I thought there was art and creativity in the director's vision.  I thought that the little girl was a delight to watch.  But I also would not have thought it an Oscar winner in the four categories it was nominated (Best Actress, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay).  

4 out of 5 stars
     

12 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

What an interesting review! Now I can't wait to see it!

caite said...

To show how out of it I am, I knew that girl was nominated but I had no idea for what movie.

Beth F said...

I don't think this one came anywhere near my town either. I wasn't planning on seeing it, but you have me wondering.

bermudaonion said...

I do like the setting but don't do great with wandering plots.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

This was a strange one. The little girl was captivating, but I was surprised it was nominated for so much.

Darlene said...

Hmmmm, I'm not sure about this one but I have to admit I'm curious about it.

Zibilee said...

I hadn't even herd of this one before, but I am curious now. A lot of this reminds me of that book Salvage the Bones. There are many overlapping themes, but this one sounds less disturbing, which is saying something about Salvage the Bones. I might have to see if I can rent this one when I can.

Jenners said...

I think it is amazing that a young child coud pull off acting in a movie. I'm not sure if I want to see this or not but it sounds interesting if nothing else.

Jeane said...

It sounds like one I'd want to see. Based just on your review I've added it to my list of films to look for.

Tasha B. said...

Idk, I'm not super-interested in seeing it like I am with some of the other Oscar nominees (and you are so right, this is one of the few--only?--years where I've been excited to see all of them). If it's on TV sometime I might catch it.

Julie P. said...

Great review! And I hadn't heard of it either except for the little girl's Oscar nod.

stacybuckeye said...

I wasn't really interested in this one until you said that the dad came from the local bakery with no experience. And to see a girl of 6 carry a movie. The rest of it seems, unsettling?