Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

January 24, 2013

Oscar nominee ‘Beasts’ worth a look

Ryan Maddux

Greensburg — I’ll be flying solo as we continue our look at the Best Picture nominees with the drama-fantasy Beasts of the Southern Wild (PG-13).

Set on an isolated island in the Bayou region, the film revolves around a young girl (Quvenzhane Wallis) and her sick father (Dwight Henry) as they adjust to the ever-changing environment (both in realistic and imaginative manner). First time director, Benh Zeitlin, orchestrates the film.  

Viewed through the prism of Best Picture nominees, Beasts of the Southern Wild would be considered a “small” film. It’s not about our greatest President (Lincoln), it’s not about hunting Bin Laden (Zero Dark Thirty) and it’s not about rescuing hostages in Iran (Argo) — but its lack of boldness should not be held against it.

It’s an intimate film about a specific group of people, and more to the point, about a father and a daughter.

At the end of the day, it’s a film that I like. I’m hesitant at this point to classify it as Best Picture material but it does have a lot going for it.

I will say that the film does two things very well: It specifically captures the nuances of a distinct group of people and it treads candidly on a father-daughter relationship in that world.

The film does a good job documenting the charm and roughness of this community that is self-contained and closed off to most of the outside world.

These people live in squalor but still maintain a sense of dignity and purpose, even though they might not fully grasp those concepts. The relationship between father and daughter is what characterizes this world as they both struggle to accept such basic human notions as love, courage and fear.

Hats off to both Wallis and Zeitlin for breakout performances (as actor and director).  

Wallis now has the distinction of being the youngest Best Actress nominee of all-time, and her nomination is much deserved. Her strong-willed yet sincere performance provides much of the cinematic substance in the story.

It’s an amazing performance from such a young actor. Kudos to Zeitlin as well for crafting such a memorable movie as his first major project. He certainly shows a lot of promise as one of best young directors in Hollywood.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is a boarder-line best picture nominee but it’s still a movie with a lot of value.

Final grade: B+