Beasts of the Southern Wild Review
By Lexi Feinberg
Shock You Like A Hurricane
A little girl captures the strength and resilience of post-Katrina Louisiana in "Beasts of the Southern Wild," a powerful piece of art that is garnering a ton of praise - and deservedly so. It's not an easy task to inject optimism into a film about poverty, child neglect and natural disasters, but skilled new director Benh Zeitlin manages to make it look that way.
The central character, Hushpuppy, is portrayed by 8-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis, who hadn't acted before, though you'd never know it. She owns the screen like a young Jodie Foster - uh huh, I went there. In "Beasts", she plays a kid whose mother "swam away" a while back, leaving her with an ailing father (Dwight Henry) in an area known as the Bathtub. She sees it as a magical place, one of the most beautiful places on earth. In reality, it's an impoverished swampy area in the Mississippi Delta, separated from the industrial part of the state by a series of levees.
Blessed with a wild imagination, Hushpuppy is able to turn bad situations into a game of hide-and-seek or an opportunity to envision big, prehistoric monsters prancing around in front of her, because why not. It's a lot better than being fully aware she's eating dog food when her dad disappears for a few days, and that storms and floods are becoming an ever-exasperating issue. Some of the visually creative segments bring to mind Spike Jonze's "Where The Wild Things Are
", while the narration and nature shots lean more toward Terrence Malick's work. Though the audience may judge certain characters in "Beasts", the director never does, and his love for them glistens throughout the movie.
While Katrina isn't mentioned by name in the film, its presence is apparent. The neighbors in the Bathtub bend over backwards for each other, find humor even in chaos, and do their best to persevere even when plucked from their homes. "Beasts" is a special film that gets just about everything right and juggles laughter, sentiment and sadness without dropping any of the balls. It's what so many indies strive to be. Take note, guys.