Beasts of the Southern Wild (PG-13) - Runtime: 93 minutes
Starring: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry
Director: Benh Zeitlin
Writer: Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin
This movie is supposed to be a triumph. And uplifting joyous celebration of life in which all of humanity can unanimously agree how wonderful and life-affirming this movie is. Let me tell you this: it is not. This is one of the most depressing and boring movies I've seen all year. And this movie is in my wheel house - post-apocalyptic movies with an underdog protagonist trying to survive (Children of Men, 12 Monkeys). I'd compare this movie thematically to Spirited Away or Pan's Labyrinth, two movies I love. So I was expecting at least to enjoy this movie - but the movie lost me only twenty minutes in and it only got worse as the movie went on.
The movie is set in the future where rising ocean water has flooded most of the coastline. There is an island known as The Bathtub in the southern U.S. that is cut off from the rest of the country. It's a backwoods civilization where people live in shacks and just live day to day. They have no cares except for the rising tides that will eventually consume the island. Hushpuppy is the main character and she's a very stubborn and adventurous girl who lives with her dad. After a fight she sets her house on fire and runs away. I can't really explain much more of the plot without explaining everything so suffice to say, stuff happens and of course the island gets more flooded.
I just could not connect with this movie. I tried really, really hard. The premise was alright, but I hated certain messages in the movie. The film celebrates these people who live in the bathtub because they rejected the mainland's way of life - with technology and fancy living (I'm assuming stuff like Ketchup and bicycles are chief symbols of wealth in this age). But in my opinion, these people are stupid and stubborn. They refuse outside help when it's needed (like medical aid) and they throw parties every night just celebrating their life like there's no care in the world. Of course it bites them in the ass when a storm arrives, but the movie really seems to uphold these Bathtub people like a revelation to modern society.
The other big problem with the movie is its logic. If you're going to introduce us to a future world where most of the United States' coast has been flooded, then I'm assuming you've at least laid out some sort of background information. It doesn't have to show up in the movie, but I assume there's a logical, real world nestled in the background of the movie. One case where this logic is upended is the levee built around the mainland. Hushpuppy's father, Wink (some of the worst names I've come across in all of moviedom) decides after the big storm flooded the island to throw a bomb at the levee wall and that will drain the island. I'm pretty sure that's not how it works, but hey! This movie isn't about real things, it's all about symbolism! But lo and behold - his bomb works and the island is thus freed of the shackles of reality and is no longer flooded.
Plus there's some other such nonsense about these mythological beasts being trapped in the ice that are now freed to roam the earth, pursuing god knows what. And pretty much the only reason they're in the story is to show us SYMBOLISM and METAPHORS. It beats you over the head that you're practically suffocating by all this MEANING. It's really not entertaining and if this is supposed to represent a slice of Americana, then I must be living in the wrong America.
I have no idea how this movie got nominated for Best Picture. There are about half a dozen other movies that were infinitely better than this that got just as much critical acclaim (The Avengers? Hello?). I guess if you're really curious to see this check it out. Otherwise, it's an awful waste of 90 minutes. I was excited to see this movie but it was a complete disappointment.
Rating: Avoid Like the Plague!