Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Queasy Beasts

Beasts of the Southern Wild       WWW Score: 60%

If you believe the hellacious hype surrounding Beasts of the Southern Wild - the tale of surviving one of mother nature's most devastating storms - you'd head straight to Vegas and lay the house on the micro-budgeted indie to score multiple Oscar nominations.

Let the record show, if that were to happen, the film will be this year's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - unspeakably undeserving.

Opening on a double-wide perched on a sky-high pile of cinder-blocks along the Mississippi Delta, little Hushpuppy (a revelatory Quvenzhane Wallis) scampers about its squalidness, herding her menagerie of farm critters and cooking up canned cat food for a scrumptious snack.

Hushpuppy's mom is long gone but her deadbeat dad (Dwight Henry) provides his little girl with all the essential skills for survival: cracking live crabs in half and catching catfish barehanded - it's a world that makes Appalachia look positively civilized.

Bring on Hurricane Katrina, flooding the bayou's backyard and forcing Hushpuppy and her pa to fend for themselves on a boat that was once served as the back end of a pickup truck. Along the way, Hushpuppy treating us to such sage wisdom as: "sometimes things break that can't be fixed" and "everybody loses the thing that made them".

In your face Aristotle.

If you aren't seasick immersed in the water world's microcosm of life, cinematographer Ben Richardson - alongside director Benh Zeitlin - lends a schizophrenic hand, framing every shot as tightly as his camera will allow, moving the thing around in unsteady - and often purposely unfocused - fashion from the first to final frame. By the time a herd of Godzilla-sized hogs - the Aurochs - arrive on the scene, it might as well be a Cajun-styled Cloverfield.

Zeitlin and his script co-writer Lucy Alibar's manner of storytelling is equally as nauseating. Told in a half-real, half-imagined fashion, it's often brutally difficult to discern which is which - not that you'll actually care. But give the rookie director some props for making us feel the pain, the film is a nightmare not dissimilar to what the residents of New Orleans went through some seven years ago - a brutally rough sit.

While Beasts of the Southern Wild is getting heaped with ungodly praise for both its artistic merits and subject matter, as an enthralling film-going experience it fails - epically. It's an overwrought disaster of a movie that will have you wishing its residents had moved up river well before Katrina roared into town.