Thursday, August 9, 2012

"Beasts of the Southern Wild" Left Much to Be Desired


Beasts of the Southern Wild should've been right up my alley. Indie movie with an adorable tomboy heroine, magical realism, themes of the inter-connectivity of everything and climate change... BUT I hated it.

The most particularly off-putting aspects were:
The endlessly shaking shaky cam. When the first 10 minutes or so of the film started with shaky cam insanity coupled with randomly moving in and out of focus, I assumed it was some whimsical mood setting device. But when the shaky cam/focus crap kept going on and on and on, I had to get up and go to the bathroom because my stomach was heaving and I was so nauseated. I don't understand why close-ups of caterpillers crawling on a leaf, a puddle in a rainstorm or a swarming pile of crawdads require epilleptic-level shaky cam. And it was horrific to watch. This was the first thing that made me want to leave the theater. (An hour into the film I did, because I once more felt an overwhelming desire to vomit.)

The terrible parenting. Every parent depicted is an alcoholic, somewhat abusive "for your own good," emotionally unavailable mess who doesn't care about the filth they or their children live in. Despite living off the land where there's water all around them, they don't seem to have any desire to wash themselves, their clothes or their living places. Everything is encased in grime and the way that the adults treat the heroine was horrifying. I hated seeing it. I kept hoping for some redeeming qualities to emerge, but none ever did.

The strange interludes with the aurochs. The aurochs - ancient cattle-like beasts  (as seen on the poster above) that used to roam the Earth - are first introduced by a woman telling stories about them eating caveman babies. After that, images of the aurochs encased in ice, then in melting water, then rushing across the desert, are randomly interspersed with the ongoing action, with the heroine's narration as the only thing attempting to tie these interludes in with the rest of the story.

No sense of story. Despite including a major storm and subsequent flood, a terrorist attack on a levy, and a Viking-esque funeral, Beasts of the Southern Wild managed to have no interesting story or any likeable characters. I wanted to like the heroine, but I could only pity her.

Overwhelming reliance on voice-over narration. The heroine, known only as "Hushpuppy" barely speaks to any person or creature around her, but her narration goes on nearly endlessly. The film relies on this narration to introduce and carry the inter-connectivity and climate change themes - a technique I found failed. Eventually I started to hate how much narration was happening compared to just how little conversation went on. The effect for me was simply to demonstrate that the film couldn't hold it's own.

I know that many critics loved this film. I just didn't. Have you seen it? If so, what did you think?

1 comment:

Joe Pontillo said...

Dang. This seems to be one of those "love it or hate it" movies. Haven't seen it yet, but I was hoping for the former. My instinctual reaction after seeing the preview was that I wouldn't like it, but I was hoping to prove myself wrong. Seems likely that my instincts will win out.