Friday, 22 February 2013

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Bullseyes:  ③ (out of 5)
I thought I’d tried to catch this flick ahead of the Oscars and I have to say it was…OK.  Toronto’s Bell Lightbox didn’t help my enjoyment with their terrible soundproofing.  What’s going on there? 
I don’t much like the Lightbox.  Everyone’s friendly enough but I always feel underdressed and unworthy - like they’re all waiting for someone more important to come along.
‘Enjoy the show sir’ they say, as they look over my shoulder for George Clooney. 
For some reason the wall between theatres four and five was paper thin.  There was obviously a corporate event of some kind going on next door which meant that while Hush Puppy’s daddy was trying to die in peace all we heard was:
“OK everybody question number 2!”
And, as the little girl recounted sweet memories of her Mamma:
“Tony’s team’s in the lead with 25!”
Thanks Bell Lightbox.
Beasts of the Southern Wild tells the story of life in the ‘Bathtub’, an impoverished enclave on the ‘wet’ side of the New Orlean’s levy, through the eyes of six year old Hushpuppy around the time of Hurricane Katrina.  The story is simple, sparse and occasionally engaging.  But for the most part it’s just boring.
I was drawn in by the trailer, in particular the performance of Oscar nominated Quvenzhané Wallis.  Kid actors can be adorable - or inane - in this case Quvenzhané is the former, a real treat.  But, although I enjoyed her innocent take on a hard life I was never quite sure where the story was going or what I was supposed to learn. 
There’s a token effort in the beginning to elicit sympathy.  Hushpuppy’s Daddy goes AWOL so the little girl resorts to talking to a basketball jersey draped on a chair - her Mum - as she cooks up a soup/cat food combo on the stove.  But that tapers away.  And there is some attempt to draw comparisons between the bereft citizens of the swamp and the civilized world on the other side.  Shots of a street party in full swing with moonshine and laughter and kids sprawling and wailing on blankets, and voice over commentary about fancy daycares, push chairs and a way too complicated way of life.  But that tapers too so that in the end, I am never really sure what the movie is all about.
You’d be hard pressed to say that Hushpuppy - the kid who’d been held but two times in her life - has it good.  Sure her Daddy loves her but it’s a mostly empty love.    And what of those ancient beasts?  Hushpuppy faces them down in the end but - so what?  Now she’s ‘de man’?  Strong enough to face the world?  Destined to struggle along just like her Daddy?  Great!
The movie left me with little hope, but it didn’t leave me with much despair either.  I suppose in the end I didn’t care, and when it comes to art - that’s the worst reaction of all.

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