Overview: A young girl must fight for survival as her father becomes ill and her coastal delta home is flooded. Fox Searchlight Pictures. 2012. PG-13. 93 Minutes.
Feed-Up Time: In Beasts of the Southern Wild, director Benh Zeitlin tells the heartwarming tale of Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), a young and lively resident of The Bathtub, a coastal delta town shut off from the mainland by a levee. Hushpuppy’s journey with her father Wink (Dwight Henry) is one of innocence and preservation of a way of life. Their struggles through the flooding of their homeland are a mirror to, and social commentary on, the post-Katrina Gulf region. However, Zeitlin doesn’t paint this story in a dark or negative light. Instead he uses Hushpuppy’s spirit and presence to create an imaginative and inspiring lesson in loving life.
Once There Was a Hushpuppy: Wallis’ performance as Hushpuppy is full of natural energy, innocence, and soul. When the film was shot she was only five years old, which makes her performance even more astounding. It earned her an Oscar nomination, the youngest to ever receive the accolade. She commands the screen with the zeal of a seasoned actor and her vitality rises higher than the flood waters around her. Viewers will be entranced by her vibrancy and want to puff out their chests and applaud with her successes.
And She Lived with Her Daddy in the Bathtub: The Bathtub is created as a true representation of the region. The locations used all capture the reality of the poverty stricken area, and the devastating effect of the flooding. The film was shot on location in Louisiana and most of the cast are non-professional locals, including Wallis and Henry. In addition, composers Dan Romer and Zeitlin create an uplifting and joyous score that is a mix of sweeping orchestral notes, horns, and a Cajun twang. The score aids in the establishment of the location and setting, giving it a true Louisiana sound and feel.
A Minor Critique: At times shaky cam is used when following characters through wooded or sheltered areas. In some instances it aids in the depiction of the environment, but in most cases it is jarring and disorienting. It is claustrophobic and causes a distraction to the thematic experience, which is more open and expressive.
I’m a Little Piece of a Big, Big Universe: Part magical realism, part social commentary, and part Southern gentile fairy tale; Beasts of the Southern Wild is a triumphant crowd-pleaser that will have audiences standing up and cheering.