“Beasts of the Who?” I thought, as I listened to the Best Picture Nominees being announced on the radio. Maybe it’s a documentary about animals?
During a recent day at home, I noticed that Beasts was the only Best Picture nominee On Demand, so I figured what the heck? I’ll give it a try. I am committed to seeing the nominees. Now’s as good a time as any to tackle this one.
My one word review: Wow.
It’s hard for me to figure out what to say about this movie, because it was so much better than I expected. Like on The Price is Right when you take a chance on a giant box not knowing what’s inside, Beasts came as a complete surprise. I knew nothing going in.
I started this post as a summary of the plot, but my draft post was boring and didn’t portray the feelings invoked by this movie, so I try again with “wow” as my starting point.
“Wow” because the movie is well-deserving of the nomination. It’s beautiful at times and the characters and the setting and the story feel real. I never thought I’d say this about a nine-year-old, but Best Actress nominee Quvenzhane Wallis, who plays “Hushpuppy,” did a fantastic job. She is Hushpuppy. You can’t convince me otherwise. That she’s not really Hushpuppy is mind-blowing.
“Wow” because I had no idea that this story is set in the Louisiana Bayou, on the “other side of the levee” in what they called “The Bathtub.” The residents know that the rains will come and flood their homes, but they choose to stay and as you watch, you understand why.
“Wow” because essentially this is a story about Hushpuppy and her father, Wink, and their dedication to each other. They are a team, and while it’s not all butterflies and lemon drops between them, you feel their love in every scene.
“Wow” because this movie is also about Hushpuppy’s connection to nature. She realizes that even though she’s small and from The Bathtub, her existence matters to the universe.
“Wow” because it’s a story about a community that is bonded and tight and so different than I’d imagine could ever exist in America. A community that refuses to let a disastrous flood push them from their homes. A community that refuses to leave their own behind. A place where there is celebration and history and culture and dedication practiced everyday.
“Wow” because Hushpuppy faces challenges that no little girl should ever have to face. Her mother left. Her father is sick and dying. The only home she’s ever known is destroyed by fire and floods. Yet somehow through it all you realize that Hushpuppy’s going to be alright. Wink did his job. It wasn’t pretty, but he did it.
The movie has some WTF moments but at its core, it’s about love. Wink’s love for his daughter and her love for him. Wink and Hushpuppy’s love of their life and their home and their community. Hushpuppy’s love and understanding of nature. Wink’s love of his friends. Wink and Hushpuppy’s love of their absent wife/mother.
Beasts of the Southern Wild is wonderful and thoughtful and sad. It’s downright depressing at times. Don’t see it if you are looking for laughs. However, even though you’re not happy when the movie ends, you’re hopeful and emotional as you dab at your eyes with the tissues (read my Les Mis thoughts to learn more about my history of crying at movies).
What else can you ask for from a Best Picture nominee? I wouldn’t be upset if it won the category. I’d be surprised, but not upset.
Thanks for reading!