Beasts of the Southern Wild – Every once in a while a film comes out that is too smart for me. Ok, probably more often than that even. Take Tree of Life, which if I didn’t know better I would think that Terrence Malick is off somewhere laughing wholeheartedly at everyone trying to bring meaning to his mesmerizing screensaver of nature, and one rude dinosaur. Beasts of the Southern Wild brought back memories of that confounding experience, but at least this time the much shorter run time is comprised of a linear story and lacked the random imagery that drained the life force from my tiring gaze.
Benh Zeitlin builds a story of a girl living with her sick, drunken father, fearful of an ancient creature that is coming to destroy her ramshackle community on the backdrop of the bayou. These creatures play out like a fairytale considering they’re first told to the girls by a teacher as a cautionary tale of what is to come and are aligned with storms, a flood, and death in the story (Zac will tell you there are strong Katrina ties in this one, which of course I was too stupid to come up with on my own), but I still prefer to draw parallels between the beasts and Hushpuppy’s mood and mindset in terms of how she views her effects the world around her, in large part dealing with her dying father.
Even if the story confuses slightly and contains a story point late in the film that I am still unsatisfied with, the world that is just as important as the characters within is a magical thing to see. So see it for that and the performance from Quvenzhané Wallis that has brought an Oscar nomination her way.
Final grade: B
The story takes place around a butter carving competition, which unfortunately takes the backseat to Jennifer Garner’s crazy conservative Laura who is willing to sink to any depths to melt her young nemesis’ goal of winning. At first it brings a few laughs, but eventually it just becomes a one note character critique of someone stuck with an outdated mindset of ethnocentrism. I want more pieces of art to gawk at!
A few highlights include Rob Corddry and Shahidi’s father/adopted daughter scenes together, as well as Olivia Wilde’s stripper, aka the embarrassing sore on the community. Most likely because of Wilde herself, I somehow found myself backing Shahidi because Wilde was (and obviously because Garner’s character is the worst person on the planet who doesn’t lose her villainy even as she does have one minor “redemption” scene to help us understand her), as opposed to because of her own story. She seemed to be as flat as the rest, with a lot of jokes about the crazy white people and other reminders to keep us from forgetting that she was a downtrodden minority with a really sad backstory that no one else in the community can compete with.
Final Grade: C-
Have any films you think I should rent? Share them down below and they might show up in an upcoming “For You Renting Pleasure.”