With the upcoming Oscars we are reviewing each of this Year's Best Picture Nominees. We have already reviewed Les Miserables from when it came out, but surprisingly I had not seen the other 8 movies.
Going into Beasts of the Southern Wild totally blind as to what the plot was about was tough. I couldn't figure out if it took place in some post apocalyptic world, or if this was how people actually lived in our day. The story takes place in a community known as "The Bathtub." It is on the wrong side of the levies that protect more the civilized part of the south. Life in the Bathtub is harsh. Homes are made of driftwood, corrugated aluminum, and whatever other scrap materials people can find and built on precarious stilts above the ground to prepare for frequent rising floor waters.
We see the world though 7 year old girl Hushpuppy, Quvenzhane Wallis. Her understanding of things is a bit skewed as her only point of reference is her alcoholic father, and the community school house teacher who teaches folk lore and myths. It reminded me a bit of The Water Boy. Quvenzhane does a fantastic job in her role. Most of the films dialogue is hers as she narrates the film. Most of the other characters are very one dimensional. I do not know if that is poor acting, or brilliant art direction as most children do see the world as black and white.
I try my best to rate movies for you based on the genre they belong. For example, our recent review of Rise of the Guardians got 4 stars. Not because it was an amazing film in it's own right, but because as far as children's animated features go, it was very entertaining. If I were to watch it again, it would be with my kids and not alone or with other adults.
I try to do the same when it comes to Independent Films. I am for the most part, not a fan of Independent Film. They are usually not very narrative driven when it comes to plot and usually leave me feeling uneasy and uncomfortable. They are like the anti-romantic comedy.
Beasts of the Southern Wild is the same fare. The two main plot lines are Hushpuppy's Father's failing health and a Katina like Hurricane that comes through and devastates the community. The pacing is odd though as most of the plot elements are revealed though scenes that play out like montages. Quentin Tarantino could have edited the movie all out of order Pulp Fiction style and we really wouldn't have a clue.
One thing that was amazing though was scenery. I would never think that people lived in such squalor. I served my mission in parts of the Ozarks and it was never this bad. It really makes you reflect on the blessings you have. It is amazing to think something that seems post apocalyptic to me is a reality for some. I am not sure if this community was created for the movie or if it was shot on location. It is extremely life like and should get credit as an additional character in the film. Another thing that impressive was the sound editing. There was always the light sound of wind and impending storm and while in any of the shanty town buildings there was constant creaking and moaning. It made me unsettled and I think it helped transport me to Hushpuppy's world of always being in turmoil and unrest.
With a harsh environment live this comes character engaged in some hard livin'. The language is crude with on probable and one definite F-Bomb. There are also many feline related expletives. Hushpuppy's father and many in the community are frequently inebriated and this is carries over to a theme of child abuse in the film. Although these behaviors are not glorified, it is a gritty realization that places a lot on weight on the viewer.
Beasts of the Southern Wild is available now on iTunes and Amazon.