Flick of the Week: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild A vivid, atmospheric film, featuring magnificent sound, set design, art direction and cinematography, Beasts of the Southern Wild provides a riot of color, textures and emotions. The story, about the dying Wink (Dwight Henry) and his daughter Hushpuppy (Quvenzahané Wallis) eking out a life in “The Bathtub” (an island off of Louisiana) is slight but riveting.

Viewers quickly become absorbed in the characters lives as a storm comes in and washes out the community. Wink, Hushpuppy, and a handful of other folks disregard the mandatory evacuation procedures, hoping to stay and live on. Wink insists on teaching his daughter how to survive—showing her how to catch catfish with her hands, or open a crab with her bare hands—“beasting” it. There are many remarkable moments, from magical realist scenes of Hushpuppy’s mother turning on a flame just by walking past a stove, to stunning fantasy sequences involving Hushpuppy seeing and relating to the aurochs—large, strong animals that show no mercy.

The acting by the non-professional newcomers (Henry is a baker; Wallis was six when this film was made) is exceptional. Director Behn Zeitlin creates such a strong, authentic sense of time and place, audiences will be transported.

Also Opening

Dark Horse Dark Horse is an extraordinary—and extraordinarily dark—comedy by Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness),master of the uncomfortable. The film depicts the uneasy relationship between Abe (Jordan Gelber), a chunky thirty-something guy who lives with his parents, and Miranda (Selma Blair), a dark mysterious beauty he meets at a wedding. Their romance consists of an awkward first date in which he asks her to marry him. On the day their parents meet, Miranda drops a bombshell of a secret.

Dark Horse, however, is less about their romance than it is a character study of Abe, a man in advanced stages of arrested development—someone who is frustrated that his life has not worked out for the best, despite his many advantages. Abe is pathetic, but also sympathetic, and Gelber plays him without irony, which may alienate some viewers. Abe is unable to get what he wants—as when his attempt to return a toy is denied—and he does not seem to want what he gets in Miranda. Solondz rigorously presents Abe’s story, alternating between stifling hyperrealism and wild fantasy sequences, the best of which involve Marie (Donna Murphy, outstanding), an older colleague of Abe’s who counsels him on his relationship, and urges him to grow up.

Laced with black humor, everything in Dark Horse—from the soundtrack of upbeat pop tunes to the wallpaper in Abe’s parent’s home—is deliberate and clever, and off-putting. Even if this smart, sardonic film is not everyone’s cup of tea, one can still appreciate it’s daring.

Ice Age: Continental Drift The latest installment of this animated series set in pre-historic times.

Take this Waltz Michelle Williams plays a young woman who meets and develops deep feelings for a neighbor (Luke Kirby), which threatens her marriage to Seth Rogan.

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Gary Kramer

Gary M. Kramer is a Philadelphia-based film critic who thinks Sandra Bullock mambos. He likes eating ethnic food and watching ethnic movies—though not necessarily both at the same time or from the same country.

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