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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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet has two passions: writing fiction, and celebrating art — music, cinema, photography, literature — through writing and teaching. He is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” — Through a Screen Darkly. And his four-novel fantasy series, The Auralia Thread, which begins with Auralia's Colors, was published by Random House. He speaks at universities and conferences around the world about understanding art through eyes of faith. He is earning his MFA in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University, where he has worked for 11 years as an editor, writer, and communications project manager. His work has been recognized in The New Yorker, TIME, The Seattle Times, IMAGE, Ravi Zacharias International — and Christianity Today, where he served as a film journalist for more than a decade. He recently began a weekly column called "Listening Closer" for Christ and Pop Culture.


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