The “Be the Man!” Problem in Beasts of the Southern Wild

I remain flummoxed as to why Beasts of the Southern Wild is garnering so much acclaim. I’d begun to feel a deep distrust of my own first impression, and considered withdrawing my review.

But here, in this Nashville Scene review, Michael Sicinski gets right at what bothered me about the whole film. I don’t feel so alone anymore.

Here’s a good excerpt (but Sicinski makes an even stronger point in his conclusion):

The key image in Fox Searchlight’s publicity has been an image of Hushpuppy walking in the dark of night, illuminated by dazzling colored sparklers. This has been chosen, I think, because it’s so atypical. For a film so insistent on the raw force of nature, Beasts seldom attempts to capture the trees, the mud, the slicing sheets of rain. Instead, Zeitlin employs choppy handheld camerawork that moves things along but is inadequate for putting the elemental across as more than just a received idea. When Beasts does bust through with wildness, it’s only by negation, and at its most ideologically specious moment. After forced government evacuation, the ‘Tubbers are held prisoner in a cold, white facility representing “civilization” as total bureaucratic callousness. (Is this a conservative stance against social services? Naturally, Zeitlin hedges all bets by refracting this Kafkaesque nightmare through Hushpuppy’s tiny point of view.)

 

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