Friday, July 13, 2012
It's one of the most common plotlines there is: finding one's place in the universe. But rarely has a coming-of-age story been told with such engrossing originality as in Beasts of the Southern Wild. This remarkable first feature from Benh Zeitlin takes a potentially gritty tale of a philosophical six-year-old Southern bayou girl forged in the crucible of extreme circumstance, and infuses it with elements of fairy tale, folklore and magic realism in a way that has won hearts and earned accolades from Sundance to Cannes.
At the center of the storm (both metaphorically and literally, plot-wise) is a tiny dynamo named Quvenzhané Wallis, the non-professional actress who stars in the film. As its unlikely heroine, a girl called Hushpuppy, Wallis is onscreen in every scene, and we never get tired of her expressive face; she's a poignant little vessel soaking up experience at every turn, reacting with wonder, rage, or determination as circumstances continue to shift. As poetic or surreal as the story may become, she keeps things firmly grounded in reality.
Hushpuppy lives with her daddy in a lowland region of the Southern Delta nicknamed "The Bathtub" for its susceptibility to flooding. Over on "the dry side" of the levee, says Hushpuppy, "they afraid of the water like a bunch of babies." But she and her daddy, Wink (the excellent Dwight Henry), love the water, navigating the bayou in their pontoon fishing boat built from spare junk parts. (Read more)