BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (2012, Behn Zeitlin): 4/10
For a second I felt like the only person not enchanted by this obnoxiously self-congratulatory, cliche-ridden, smugly directed ripoff — after all, it’s currently at an 85 on Metacritic — but then I did some research and found that luckily I’m not alone. This critic, while a bit too concerned with some vague connection Zeitlin has to Levi’s ads, nails the phoniness of the film’s magical realism and the revisionist attitude that Katrina didn’t actually bring out the worst in human nature (seriously, read the tales of what happened at the Superdome). And Deadspin does a good job identifying the film’s cliches, the most annoying of which is the pointless hand-held camerawork — which to me reeked of desperate grittiness. And while we’re ladling on the hate, I’ll risk being the jerk that points out Dwight Henry is not a good actor. I know this cast were all non-professionals, and sometimes that works — but professional actors work hard at being good at what they do, and for a reason; Henry pitches his drunk, sick father character at the same level throughout his screen time and it’s really grating. That said, there’s no professional substitute for the awesome charisma of Quvenzhane Wallis as Hushpuppy. Zeitlin struck gold in his search for the right vessel to play his innocent protagonist — but Wallis deserved better material than a C-grade photocopy of Terrence Malick and early David Gordon Green.