Beasts of the Southern Wild: Review 4 out of 4
Beware: “Beasts” has the power to burst into your mind and your heart and bury itself there for weeks to come.
Both a winner at the Cannes and Sundance Film Festivals, this debut from filmmaker Benh Zeitlin is as moving and passionate a film as I can remember seeing in a long time and front and center is a performance of schere force, by a 6-year-old no less.
Quvenzhane Wallis will be talked about for a long time to come as Hushpuppy, our young but wise heroine and narrator, living on the water side (nicknamed The Bathtub) of post-Katrina New Orleans with her father Wink (Dwight Henry). With fear of the ice caps melting always looming, Hushpuppy and the rest of the community must brace for a harder flood as well as government officials looking to relocate them.
Before anyone starts screaming “exploitation”, know that Katrina is barely even mentioned, nor is the rising water used for some “woe is us” crap. Instead Zeitlin, a native of this area himself, is interested in the overwhelming pride, strength, celebration and community these people have in the place they call “home”, and how all that is worth never backing down when someone or anything tries to take it away.
The parades, fireworks, close-knit neighborliness and fish meals fill with such excitement and the mix of squalor and joy sets the backdrop for a beautiful coming-of-age story; one where Hushpuppy’s 6-year old fantasy world clashes with very real situations of dealing with things far beyond her realm of understanding.
Henry, a real-life baker and native of this area, gives Wink a wild, play-by-his-own-rules lunacy, but at the same time he knows he won’t be around forever, that life is cruel, and he expects his daughter to find the toughness to fend for herself.
And Wallis is really a true find, a profoundly smart and fiery heart-melter who I would love to see walk off with a couple of awards by the end of the year.
“Beasts” does such an outstanding job of making us care for a people and culture that, especially if you live in a big city, seems unbelievable and Dan Romer’s fantastic musical score just completes this exquisite love-letter, to both the bayou and movie audiences.
Take this Waltz: Review 1 and a half out of 4
“Take this Waltz” is nearly everything wrong with indie film; too centered around bored, self-pitying people, draggy music, and not much actual depth.
Michelle Williams plays Margot, a woman on a return flight who meets handsome artist Daniel (Luke Kirby), only to find out later that they are actually neighbors. She has to warn him that she is married to a sweet chicken cook named Lou (Seth Rogen) cause apparently her telling him that she needs a wheel chair for fear of missing plane connections, she’s afraid of being afraid, and she has moments of momentary melancholy has made him fall head over heals in love with her.
In what amounts to an increasingly fake and laughable will-she-or-won’t-she sleep with him romance, filmmaker Sarah Polley wants this to be about old relationships falling apart as much as new ones having a certain luster. But there is an oddness to the Margot-Daniel storyline; they do things that people who have just met would not do (he makes her a sketch of her personality, she immaturely calls him names), he creepily follows her everywhere, and the two partake in an underwater dance and, much later (another problem is the films unbelievable length), montage sex seemingly meant to be more artistic-looking than actually romantic.
All the while we ask, “Whats wrong with Lou?”
Margot on the other hand is an aggravating mess. Williams is forced to play a woman dissatisfied with everything except something new, who calls attention to herself in childish ways, and who seems to have a psychological problem the film never reveals.
Kirby says every line as if it’s the one that’s going to put him to sleep and Rogen, trying to take the Jonah Hill route into dramatic territory, amounts to nothing more than playing a clueless dope.
“Blue Valentine”, another unhappy marriage movie with Michelle Williams, broke down the relationship and gave us reasons, but Margot and company just seem like zombies (in another indie movie cliché).