Beasts of the Southern Wild: the movie M. Night wishes he could have made.

8 Aug

When I first saw the trailer for BOTSW, I immediately thought of the beast from Lady in the Water. I’m not sure if the impression came from the music, from the sound effects, or the intimidation factor of hunched shoulders.


While I always try to go into a movie a blank slate, I couldn’t help going into Beasts expecting some kind of deep south spin on Where the Wild Things Are, sort of Black Snake Moan meets The Village. I was delightfully proven wrong, and it made me realize that I could never quite put my finger on what bothers me about Shyamalan’s films. While I haven’t hated them as much as some have, I’ve always left the theater feeling very aware that I just saw a movie with some kind of surreal or other worldly aspect. Movies that rely on world building have to devote some time to giving background, but where M. Night spends a good bit of the story showing his cards one at a time, revealing slowly how his world is different from ours, Zeitlin shows his world wholly from the first few scenes. While Hushpuppy’s (the incredible Quvenzhané Wallis) voice over was at times a little too poignantly on-point (90 percent of her dialogue would be perfectly at home in a quote-a-day calendar), it provided as much explanation as was needed to care about the characters and understand the danger they were in. Surreal aspects in magical realism should be over-explained, because as soon as they are, they cease to be an organic part of the story’s fabric, but a stick the creator hits you with while yelling “hey, hey, this is a symbol! This is a symbol!”

I left the theater after Beasts of the Southern Wild with a lot of questions (what was with the jar of medicine?), but satisfied on more important counts. Go see it.

Prediction: Based on what I’ve seen so far this year, Quvenzhané Wallis will be the youngest winner of a Best Actress Oscar. That five-year-old is a better actress than I will ever be a writer. It’s crazy. I mean, just look at this face:

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