Movie Review: Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
Written by Anthony Sargon
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" is quite an unconventional movie. It's a modern-day American fantasy helmed by first-time director Benh Zeitlin, and it takes place in a Louisiana bayou about to be fully submerged under water due to melting ice caps. It's all a little absurd, but "Beasts of the Southern Wild" is a unique and poetic feature film, one bolstered by a fine central performance by a very talented little lady.
A southern Louisiana bayou called "the bathtub" is on the verge of being completely flooded; the Arctic is melting away, and the water is rising fast. The "bathtub" has been cut off from the rest of the world by a huge levee, but there's a handful of people still living there, and Hushpuppy, played by 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis, is one of them. She lives with her dad, Wink (Dwight Henry), but his health is quickly deteriorating, and Hushpuppy is too little to care for herself. There's also a more ancient threat looming; aurochs, animals that have been extinct for about 400 years, have been released from the ice and are a danger to any survivor. Much like aurochs were before they went extinct, people like Hushpuppy and Wink are a dying breed, and it's up to them to face their extinction.
Quvenzhané Wallis is great as Hushpuppy, and she's now the youngest "Best Actress" nominee in Oscar history. While this writer thinks that an Oscar nomination is excessive praise, she's still a very talented young actress who's going to become a huge star. Dwight Henry is great as her dying dad, and it's the relationship between the two of them that carries the film.
Director Benh Zeitlin does an impressive job with a small budget and an inexperienced cast. In less capable hands, the movie could have been a disaster, and it's his sensibility that must have earned him an Oscar nomination for "Best Director". The movie does rely a little too much on narration, and it can sometimes feel like an extended "Levi's" commercial, but coupled with impressive set design, a strong cast and a lot of imagination, the film pulls through to become something more than just another "Sundance indie".
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" is a little gem that shouldn't be missed. It's a modern fable about facing your own extinction, and it gets its message across with a lot of style and a lot of heart.
Numerical Score: 8/10
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