Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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Beasts of the Southern Wild

Film #212

THE PLOT

Faced with both her hot-tempered father’s fading health and melting ice-caps that flood her ramshackle bayou community and unleash ancient aurochs, six-year-old Hushpuppy must learn the ways of courage and love.

Year 1, Day 209

BEFORE: Jumping back into Oscar month is the seventh of nine of this year’s Best Picture nominees, Beasts of the Southern Wild. The film has been nominated for four Academy Awards with Best Director, Best Actress (Quvenzhané Wallis - the youngest nominee in this category ever), and Best Adapted Screenplay rounding out the nominations. Beasts of the Southern Wild is not a typical nominee in that it wasn’t released during “Awards season” - it premiered way back at Sundance last year (January 2012) and then saw a wide release on June 27, 2012. That’s nothing about the quality of the film, which looks intriguing, but it was an interesting note to mention.

AFTER: From all the comments I’ve heard about Beasts of the Southern Wild, I don’t think I’ve heard one complaint. It’s as if everyone who sees the film instantly falls in love with it. After seeing it myself, I can certainly understand where all the hype is coming from. The story, and more importantly the characters, are wonderful and very moving. But I’m not all-in as many other people are.

Of particular acclaim is Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), who as I mentioned before, received a nomination (the youngest person to do so for Best Actress) for her performance. She really is a fantastic actor and can compete amongst the other nominees. Even though she’s only nine years old, the emotions that come through this child are incredible. She makes you laugh, she makes you scared, and she makes you care for everyone in this community. Jessica Chastain (from Zero Dark Thirty), seems to be the clear front-runner for this year’s awards, but Wallis puts up an incredibly strong fight. She probably won’t win, but she sure does deserve a whole lot of attention in the coming years.

Going back to the poker analogy, where this film’s hand falls apart is in the story. The film is very effective at getting the tone/message across. Very quickly, the images of this run-down, third-world community give you a sense of the way of life. But while these people don’t have much, what they do have - family, friendships - means a whole lot to them. The best part of the story is Hushpuppy and her father, Wink’s (Dwight Henry) relationship. Wink’s deteriorating health presents a few problems throughout the film, and without spoiling anything, there is one scene in the third act that was very powerful and moving. But my complaint, which is not necessarily a problem but more of a wish, is to have a bit more backstory. The film is slightly ambiguous, and it’s meant to be that way, but even just a little backstory can go a long way. You can see the struggles these people are going through, but the only sense of the struggles you get is in the present. There’s a bit of the past history you get (mainly Hushpuppy’s missing mother) but you don’t really know the journey they’ve taken. So, I’m not saying the story is bad - you still go on quite an emotional journey - but the lack of details and history keeps this story from being that royal flush.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is definitely an entertaining and quality film. While it’s probably not going to win many (any?) awards, I’m glad it received the nominations it did. Not one of the best films you’ll ever see, but it is a film you should see.

RATING: 4 out of 5