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Movie Review: “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

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One of the year’s most exhilarating, magical films was shot in the Louisiana bayou, with no-name actors by an unknown director, and goes into the wholly new genre of “disaster-based magical realism.”

It’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” directed by Benh Zeitlin and adapted by Lucy Alibar from her own stage play, and it’s a truly beautiful, original film, one that looks and feels absolutely nothing like any movie you’ve ever seen.

The rare Sundance sensation that doesn’t arrive in theaters as a crushing disappointment, ‘Beasts’ takes us to a world that no movie has ever really explored before.

Set in “The Bathtub,” a water-logged sort-of island somewhere south of New Orleans- a place figuratively and literally on the edge of the world- the movie tells the story of a six-year-old girl named Hushpuppy, who lives with her father and among a rotating, multi-racial crew of drunks.

When a Katrina-like hurricane hits, Hushpuppy and her father must find a way to survive, while also fighting off both federal bureaucrats looking to evacuate the area and the mythical animals of the title.

This is a movie in which no plot description can possibly do it justice- the visuals are simply astounding, whether of immaculately created Bathtub itself or the storm or an amazing sequence in which the protagonist visits a brothel-on-a-boat.

It’s also told almost completely through Hushpuppy’s eyes, so we understand what’s happening the way she does. It’s expressed brilliantly in the amazing performance by newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis, who is only eight years old.

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” is every bit worthy of its buzz, and is one of the best films of the year.

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