Hush Puppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) is a six-year-old girl living in a southern Delta community with her father, Wink (Dwight Henry) in a long forgotten community that is cut off from the rest of the world. Hush Puppy’s mother is long gone and her father, a firm believer in tough love, (he forces her to live in a separate house than him) is rarely home and leaves Hush Puppy on her own, fueling her overactive imagination. One day a disastrous storm comes through threatening to demolish the community. While the storm rages, Hush Puppy and her father lay away in their bathtub as her father tells her to go to bed and ignore the fact that their house is being flooded. The next morning after the storm has passed they celebrate their survival with the rest of the remaining townsfolk by throwing a party and eating all the fish and drinking all the beer they have left. The celebration turns gloomy though when Hush Puppy’s teacher Miss Bathsheba (Gina Montana) reminds them that the salt water may have killed most of the fish that they depend on for food. Wink stubbornly tells Hush Puppy not to worry and that he has everything under control. From there the film follows their act of violent stupidity, the government evacuating them from their homes, and Wink being hospitalized due to some unknown disease he is dying from. Hush Puppy slowly realizes that her father isn’t as great as she once thought he was and once she returns to her home she flees out into the sea to a mysterious boat, looking for her mother.
Beasts of the Southern Wild will be this year’s Winter’s Bone; a movie that most critics will love but that I just never get sucked into. The film is beautifully shot, has a wonderful score, and features very strong performances from a cast composed of first time actors and actresses. Wallis gives a powerful and strong performance and will probably be receiving an Oscar nomination, come awards season. Dwight Henry gives a very great performance as Hush Puppy’s dad, playing a father who wants his daughter to see him as a great man, but is slowly dying and knows it. The transformation he gives his character, from a strong and powerful man to the weak dying person he becomes, is probably what got this first time actor a role in the new Steve McQueen film 12 Years a Slave.
Unfortunately first time director Ben Zeitlin does nothing to capture my emotions with his film. I never found myself swept away with the story, and was constantly reminded that I was watching a movie because of his dull direction. The writing as well is fairly mediocre (written by both the director Ben Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar) with the worst part being the ending and the obvious metaphor the writers present. Don’t believe the hype, the film is worth a watch but is getting way too much praise from other critics. Lower your expectations and you’ll enjoy the movie.
Beasts of the Southern Wild is now playing at the Ritz Five.