Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild creates a world unlike any other I’ve encountered in either real life or fiction. It concerns the ragtag residents of “The Bathtub,” a small Louisiana community on the wrong side of a levee, in perpetual danger of disappearing beneath the ocean every time a storm hits. The tale is told from the perspective of Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis, an exceptionally talented nine-year-old, the youngest actress to be nominated for Best Actress), who has an insightful, fantastical take on her surroundings.

Hushpuppy’s infant perspective is reflected in the meandering narrative and cinematography/editing (which was occasionally sloppy, with shots out of focus). The tale of a community unwilling to join wider society was absorbing, but I found the fantasy digressions – Hushpuppy imagining a herd of aurochs rampaging towards the Bathtub – to be distracting. The film was successful in its evocation of fantasy and whimsy amidst tragedy without the need for fake-looking prehistoric mammals.

The film is powerfully successful at world-building, and also crafts a relationship between Hushpuppy and her erratic father (Dwight Henry) that feels real and original. The two share a fascinating, combative and complex (almost symbiotic) relationship, more like two squabbling siblings than parent and child.

Rating: 147/200

3 thoughts on “Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

    • Yeah, I’m still undecided on that issue – good article, by the way. It seems clear that Zeitlin deserves a lot of the credit for the strength of her performance, which relies heavily on the editing and voiceover to be effective (sidenote: I think he deserves a lot of credit for maintaining the whimsical feel of the film and for helping to foster that performance, but I don’t feel he warrants the Directing nomination he received). She appears to inhabit the role for the most part, but as you say, the strength of her performance comes from the actress’s charm and obvious strength of character, and it’s not clear whether this is thanks to some great acting or she’s simply a charismatic young lady.

      At the end of the day, though, I don’t place too much stock in the Academy Awards; it’s nice to see good films getting recognition, but it hasn’t really been about the “best” performances or films for a while (though they do get it right every once in a while). Wallis’s nomination (alongside the film’s other nominations, but hers in particular) will at least get people to check out the film who might not have otherwise, which has to be a good thing.

  1. Pingback: My Top 10 Films of 2012 « Carbon Copy

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