Saturday, May 26, 2012
Beasts of the Southern Wild
I was lucky enough to catch a screening of Beasts of the Southern Wild at Wesleyan University tonight. The film was made be a bunch of Wesleyan grads; the director, both producers, and many smaller others involved all went to Wes. A few impressions:
1. It's really, really good. I'm someone who hates hype and so I work hard to avoid engaging in it. But I'm perfectly happy saying that this is a beautiful film, extraordinarily deft for such young film makers. The art direction and overall ethos of the movie is so particular, and I think will become iconic. Pulling off beautiful wreckage is difficult; it's often attempted and rarely succeeds. More impressively, the landscape is evocative of very real poverty without being exploitative or reductive. Its fantasy elements never diminish what the movie says about real material conditions of real people. That's quite an accomplishment.
2. The central performances are as good as you've heard. As good as the main character is, the performance of her father is even better.
3. This is a movie to see in the theater. Wesleyan's newish film building has a state of the art theater. (They got some of that Whedon money.) Experiencing the film with an advanced audio system was really a revelation; the storms, so central to the movie's plot and energy, sounded amazing.
4. If I had to offer criticisms, I would say that the film loses a little energy in the last twenty minutes and goes on a bit too long. There are some cuts I would make in that stretch. But losing steam at the end is a complaint I could make, without exaggeration, about 9 out of 10 movies that I see nowadays. More curious is that, with the benefit of a couple hours, I'm not so sure that the most fantastical of the fantasy elements actually lends that much to the story. I think it's a bit thematically confused, really. But visually, it's stunning.
5. When it opens wide, check it out. It's a remarkable film and one built with tremendous care and personality. It's remarkable how much the movie reminds me of Days of Heaven, which is praise about as high as I know how to give.