Northwestern Press

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Something 'Wild' at cinema

Wednesday, August 8, 2012 by The Press in Focus

One of the pleasures of summer movie-going is discovering a less-trumpeted movie amidst the summer blockbusters.

"Beasts of the Southern Wild" is one such film.

The film's intriguing title reveals little. Even after seeing the film, you may not be able to describe what you have seen. However, you will know you've had an extraordinary film-going experience.

"Beasts" tells the story of six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané "Nazie" Wallis), a motherless child. The parenting skills of her father, Wink (Dwight Henry), border on child abuse.

Hushpuppy lives in a high-rise trailer, or rather a trailer on stilts, elevated to avoid the flooding of the Mississippi River down along the levee so deep in a Louisiana bayou nicknamed "The Bathtub" it seems to be in the Gulf of Mexico. The father lives in a separate nearby trailer.

They live cheek by jowl with the chickens and pigs, which, on any given evening, may be their dinner.

Hushpuppy and Wink are so poor the poverty line is something they aspire to.

Wink instructs Hushpuppy how to fish for catfish barehanded from a pickup truck bed that has been outfitted with oil drums as pontoons and an outboard motor. It seems quite bayou-worthy.

Wink and his friends are alcoholics. One wonders if the alcohol kills the germs that would otherwise infect them.

After a hurricane and dangerous rising waters, Hushpuppy, Wink and a ragtag collection of neighbor adults and children become water-born refugees. No quarter is given and none is taken. "No crying," Wink orders Hushpuppy.

Their travels lead to a series of mishaps and Hushpuppy's real or imagined encounters with her long, lost mother, as well as prehistoric beasts known as aurochs, a kind of gigantic wild boar, that have been set loose. Weaving through the storyline are apocalyptic warnings about climate change and the melting of the Arctic polar ice cap.

"Beasts" is mysterious, disconcerting, stunning, profound and powerful. It has the fierce wildness of innocence. It's one of the year's best film's so far, and sure to be an Oscar contender.

"Beasts" received four awards at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and the audience award at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Not for a moment do you feel as though you are watching a movie. The acting is so realistic. The story is told so off-handedly.

First-time feature film director Benh Zeitlin wrote the screenplay with Lucy Alibar, based on her one-act play, "Juicy and Delicious." Zeitlin and Dan Romer wrote the soundtrack's Cajun-inspired music.

"Beasts of the Southern Wild" seems to be filmed in chaos cam by director of photography Ben Richardson. The mostly handheld camera images are grainy, sometimes out-of-focus and often under or over-exposed. The film has the sense of a home movie, found footage or YouTube posting.

Hushpuppy's voiceover narration is frequently difficult to understand.

"Beasts of the Southern Wild" is the kind of movie that when you leave the movie theater, the world will look a little differently.

"Beasts of the Southern Wild," MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for thematic material including child imperilment, some disturbing images, language and brief sensuality; Genre: Adventure, Fantasy; Run time: 1 hour, 33 min.; Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: "Beasts of the Southern Wild" was filmed on location in and around Louisiana's Terrebonne Parish.

Box Office, Aug. 3: "The Dark Knight Rises" continued at No. 1 for a third week in a row, with $36.4 million and $354.6 million, three weeks, keeping "Total Recall," opening at No. 2, with $26 million, and "Diary of A Wimpy Kid: Dog Days," opening at No. 3, with $14.7 million

4. "Ice Age: Continental Drift," $8.4 million, $131.8 million, four weeks; 5. "The Watch," $6.3 million, $25.3 million, two weeks; 6. "Ted," $5.4 million, $203.4 million, six weeks; 7. "Step Up Revolution," $5.3 million, $23 million, two weeks; 8. "The Amazing Spider-Man," $4.3 million, $250.6 million, five weeks; 9. "Brave," $2.8 million, $223.3 million, seven weeks; 10. "Magic Mike," $1.3 million, $110.8 million, six weeks; 12. "Beasts of the Southern Wild," $1.1 million, $5.9 million. six weeks

Unreel: Aug. 10:

"The Bourne Legacy," PG-13: A new hero and a new lead actor (Jeremy Renner) continues the action-adventure-thriller series in the screenplay by writer-director Tony Gilroy ("Duplicity," "Michael Clayton") based on Robert Ludlum's novels. Also stars Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Donna Murphy, Stacy Keach and Scott Glenn.

"The Campaign," R: A neophyte political candidate (Zach Galifianakis) challenges an incumbent North Carolina congressman (Will Ferrell) in the comedy directed by Jay Roach, which also stars Jason Sudeikis and Dylan McDermott.

"Hope Springs," PG-13: Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones star in the comedy-drama about a middle-aged couple attending a week-long counseling session in an attempt to resolve their differences. Good luck with that since the therapist is played by Steve Carell.

Read previous movie reviews by Paul Willistein at the Times-News web site,, and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, Lehigh Valley Community Public Radio WDIY 88.1 FM,, where the movie reviews are archived. Email Paul Willistein and on Facebook.