Earlier this year, I saw a re-envisioned fairy tale called Mirror Mirror, a movie which I rather enjoyed. Earlier today, I saw the teaser trailer to the re-envisioned fairy tale Oz: The Great and Powerful, which I also liked. And earlier this month, I saw a VISIONARY fairy tale called Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Wait, what? Something NOT based on popular source material? AND it’s an independent film?
Yep. And it might just be a Best Picture candidate.
Set in a terrain that most adults would find difficult to raise a child – a makeshift neighborhood of scraps and junk, built upon a bayou just outside of New Orleans, affectionately called The Bathtub – Beasts follows the journey of a little girl named Hushpuppy and a community of misfit outcasts holding on to their way of life. A storm comes in more ways than one, and it is up to our six year old heroine to put the universe back together.
She can handle whatever you throw at her.
I was fortunate enough to attend the New Orleans premiere of this years Camera d’Or winner a few weeks ago, and I can safely say, you will NOT see anything replicate this.
Indeed, I compared this to a fairy tale (and so have others), but this ain’t exactly Cinderella. Floods, explosions, ruins, death and large creatures surround Hushpuppy (the princess) and her community (kingdom / village). These obstacles would be enough to crush even an adult, let alone someone under ten. But, of course, a child’s imagination doesn’t have to be simply child like; they can conjure up images and emotions that could bring anybody to their knees.
And that’s just what we get here. Told completely from the point of view of Hushpuppy, we get everything she hears, sees and feels. Very rarely do I get to see an American film with a language of its own. After the screening, I tried to compare it to the works of other filmmakers, but no comparisons felt appropriate (maybe Pan’s Labyrinth, but even that doesn’t feel right). Behn Zeitlin has created something that is, frankly, in a league by itself. It is almost breathtaking at times.
Now, when you watch this, you will notice allusions to Hurricane Katrina – flooding, levees, rescue workers, etc. Some other critics have, I think, gone a tad too far in making this all about that storm and its aftermath. The images are certainly still fresh in our minds, and are used to dramatic affect here, but this story isn’t interested in taking a political side or in pointing fingers; it just wants the best for its inhabitants. Hopefully, you’ll want the same.
No review would be complete without mentioning the performance of the lead star, Quvenzhane Wallis. She is charming in person, and very strong in character. Hushpuppy needed to be a strong willed free spirit, while in the body of a fragile, vulnerable little girl. To find that combo must’ve been a difficult task for the casting director. Without Wallis, this movie would not have worked.
Definitely on my top ten list for 2012, and should be on your list as well. I have a feeling that my words won’t do the movie much justice, but I hope that doesn’t deter you from seeking this out.
Include this film on your 2012 list.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Hushpuppy is called “man” by her dad.
Take a Drink: if you want to move to The Bathtub
Do a Shot: if you liked Rock of Ages. Yes, that one IS unrelated, but still…
They were drunk when they made it; were you when you saw it?