Review: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild Movie Poster

Although this movie is from earlier this year, now is probably the first time many people have the opportunity – or desire – to see this indie critics’ darling.  And with its multiple Oscar nominations, I felt it deserved my time now that I’ve added it to my list of nominated films seen.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is the story of a group of people, especially one person in particular, living in an isolated island community in southern Louisiana.  Hushpuppy – that one person in particular – is a spunky five year old (Quvenzhané Wallis who was six at the time) who lives with her father (local baker, Dwight Henry).  The residents of “The Bathtub,” as the area is known are all self sufficient, though living in obvious poverty, isolated from the “civilized” world.  Despite this, they all seem to be in continual good spirits, at least in the innocent eyes of Hushpuppy.  A terrible storm, which may or may not be Katrina, changes everything though.

First off, let’s get one thing out of the way.  Yes, Wallis (I’m not going to make you pronounce her first name) is adorable, talented, and captivating.  If it wasn’t for her successful portrayal of Hushpuppy, this movie wouldn’t have come nearly as far as it has.  We’re never quite sure about some parts of the movie – whether they are just how Hushpuppy is seeing and imagining things, or if they are actually happening.  A lot of it, I think, is us seeing through her eyes, which makes sense.  Take her perspective away and you’re left with a rather depressing and flat story about poor people struggling to survive while refusing to have anything to do with anything outside their way of life.

I’m not knocking the other performances.  With a cast made up primarily of local Louisiana residents, the genuineness with which they embrace the roles shines through with admirable ease.  It’s all very realistic, just not that interesting, or even important.  Channeling the events through Hushpuppy is what makes everything work.  It is interesting to see a different perspective surrounding a disaster – the “rescue workers” are not too welcome, nor really needed even if they are.

In the end, once you get past the endearing performance by Wallis, a performance that will cloud many a critic’s eye, the movie is good.  Not a masterpiece.  It will probably be forgotten soon by all but the film student and movie connoisseur.  In the meantime, you might want to see it, just so you can act like you know what all the fuss is about come February.  Or you could just learn to pronounce Quvenzhané and impress everyone that way.

My rating: 3 out of 5 hats
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Mrs. Hamster Says:

“It was adorable and cute – I liked when she screams.  It was also an interesting change of perspective.”

Trailer: