I wanted to gather some opinions from those who have been able to see this film. I’m a bit conflicted on it and want to get some more perspectives. Here is my take:
As many of you know, ever since Beasts of the Southern Wild played at Sundance this year, it’s been getting tons of great reviews and playing every substantial film festival left and right. Reading the reviews, it sounded great and enjoyable. But then I saw the trailer and although it dampened my expectations a bit, I was still excited to see it since I had heard so many great things about it.
The trailer came off as a bit kitschy to me, playing up the whole “magical world seen through a child’s eyes” angle. Maybe it’s just me but watching kids run around shooting fireworks doesn’t really do anything one way or another for me. (I mention it because in almost every review, they mention this sequence as an example of the film’s “beauty”). But I pushed my feelings aside since, it was a trailer after all, and watched it over the weekend.
My thoughts are as such: it was a barely good film but far from great. The world they constructed, titled ‘The Bathtub’, was well-built. From the interiors of the houses/cabins/shacks to the streets, it was all consistent and interesting to see. But it seemed like it tried to coast off this one element for the entire film, as if the world itself is eye-catching enough to entertain you for 90 minutes. Aside from the visual aspect, not much else was that interesting for me. The people shot fireworks, ate crabs and drank beer and liquor. Not only was there not a sense of an actual community present, but the reasons as to why the people want to stay didn’t seem to come off as anything other than pride. There were not any colors added to this sentiment, just one plain swatch of dour grey. Normally, something like this wouldn’t be important, but the film chooses to hinge pretty much its entire narrative structure on this.
And so the film just floats along, trying to turn things such as breaking open a crab into drama and hammering home one single point: ya gotta do it yaself! There were no dynamics, no highs, no lows, it was a very monotone piece. Even the ending when the beasts approach Hushpuppy was pretty anti-climatic.
The good: I liked the acting overall. The kid, the father, the other inhabitants, all of them were pretty good across the board. There were a few times where you could tell they might benefit from some actual acting lessons but it wasn’t bothersome at all. And again, the Bathtub was fully realized. Oh and the cinematography was pretty good too.
So my question to others is, what do you like about this film? What do you dislike about it? Did you love it or hate it? Do you think it is worthy of all of the praise it has received?
Side note – There were more old white people in the theater for this movie than I have ever seen in my life, no joke. Not saying that’s good or bad, I just thought that was interesting.
I’ll wait until it comes out on DVD. I’ve been hearing a lot of hype about it and seeing a bunch of people talk about it on here, but that one line in the trailer- something like “I look around and see that I’m a tiny little piece in a great big universe”- something like that- made me refuse to ever pay to see this in a theater. I didn’t want to pass it off without seeing it, but honestly your review and others on here pretty much confirm my fears.
I have not seen it yet (and so only skimmed the intro of your post, Ryan, I’ll read in more depth later) but as the word has spread and more and more information is coming in, especially regarding the Notebook review being debated in the ‘Would this be a Criterion title?" thread, it’s already hitting that point where people are debating if it’s too rich to portray poor people, too fantastic to portray reality, too this to be that, and so on, which indicates to me that most people are watching through personal values lenses and thus little real information is being presented on what the film is actually like.
SO, that makes me very very curious and I really want to see it just to look into it, but am skeptical about it. Now I have one question for you, and I think this question is going to reveal just how off my expectations of it may be, but here goes nothing:
On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being The Help and 10 being Tideland, where does this movie score in terms of magical realism?
(And yes, that question itself is also an underhanded oversimplification of The Help )
The Help is magical realism?
I’m joking, but I’m kinda hoping people can see what I’m wink-wink nudge-nudging at, as it’s hard to explain. A bit of a pun on the terms ‘magical thinking’ and ‘magical realism’.
(I might totally derail this thread, sorry Ryan)
I’m going to try and see this today. I read recently that some of the sfx was done by peeps at my school in SF.
The main problem with the film is a very shaky sense of logic and proportion; there is one big plot development in the middle of the film that is really problematic, momentous in a way that the film really doesn’t know what to do with.
The tone is consistently off, as well; the girl playing Hushpuppy is really good in here scenes, but the voice over narration sounds oddly rehearsed, and in tone and syntax is so “off” from the dialogue in the rest of the movie that it bothered me throughout. The music was unfortunate; the editing seemed clipped and rushed.
The fact that the characters are always drunk is less problematic than the fact that there seems to be no economy; how do they afford to get drunk? Who in the film has a job? How does the teacher get paid? If these kids stay in the magical bathtub community, what future will they have? Will they end up as prostitutes on the floating cat fish restaurant?
What this movie reminded me of most of all was the Libretto (but not the transcendant music) of the 1935 opera PORGY AND BESS…
many plot holes that they skim over in the narration and then don’t really talk about any other time, so it’s a bit confusing. also, the alligator getting shot scene is unintentionally hilarious.
PolarisDiB: On a scale from 1 to 10, I would put the magical realism at about a 4. The only thing that is really “magical” are the beasts in the film that awaken from the ice, which are basically giant pigs with tusks. But here’s the funny thing about that: they talk about the beasts in the beginning, but then that’s pretty much it. A few shots of them pop up here and there but they are mostly inconsequential; in fact, when they pop up at the end for the “climax”, I had completely forgotten that they existed.
After a big storm hits, the whole city is flooded and they float around on rickety boats and a truck trailer that is turned into a boat. So if you consider that to be “magical”, there’s that. There is a whorehouse on a boat but it’s not really “magical”…it’s just a whorehouse on a boat.
NRH: I completely agree. How are they getting that alcohol? Do they steal it? Do people bring it in from the outside world? Who knows.
Does anyone else feel like the first five minutes fulfill the function of a network TV cold open?
Seeing this tomorrow. Yay, birthday!
“The fact that the characters are always drunk is less problematic than the fact that there seems to be no economy; how do they afford to get drunk? Who in the film has a job? How does the teacher get paid? If these kids stay in the magical bathtub community, what future will they have? Will they end up as prostitutes on the floating cat fish restaurant?”
that sort of stuff vaguely occurred to me while watching it, but i felt more overwhelmed by the notion that the film itself is told thru the lens of hushpuppy, an unreliable narrator because, well, she’s a little kid. i found the movie more satisfying that way — although all narrative foibles aside, the dad and hushpuppy interacting was the real pleasure i took away from the movie. that kid’s a goddamn firecracker
I thought it was pretty terrible.
It strikes me as the kind of film Danny Boyle would have made about the same subject. It beats you over the head with the climate change angle and has an unnecessary amount of cheesy child’s-perspective narration. It’s also full of a not of clumsy failed metaphor.
Loved it. Magical realism, so none of those things bothered me. We’re dealing with the child’s imagination.
HoL gets it. How can a child’s imagination have plot holes?
Really, really loved this film. One of the best of the year so far for me.
Yeah, much of the logic of the world of the film is a bit shaky, and the voice-over does seem to be in a completely different tone than from when Hushpuppy actually speaks, but I was so taken with the richness of the world and characters they created that I didn’t care that much. And the fact that the story really is told from a child’s point of view really does smooth over a lot of the problems. I was very affected by the climax.
I would put it at about a 5 on the magical realism scale. It isn’t present throughout most of the film, but when it comes up it comes up in a BIG way. And what one person might see as “magical realism” another person might see as “child’s-eye-view” so a lot of it depends on how much you buy Hushpuppy and Quvenzhané Wallis’s performance (which I bought hook, line and sinker; that girl is MADE for film).
I liked it a lot because it was like nothing I had ever seen before. I saw it with a friend that is from New Orleans and he said there is no such place like The Bathtub in Louisiana, and the whole concept was imaginary. It was definitely way above most films being released nowadays.
I haven’t fully processed the film yet, but right now I’m ambivalent. About two-thirds of the way into the film, I really wasn’t enjoying myself. The sluggish narrative—if you can call a narrative—wasn’t the only problem. My sense was that the film was trying to go for this primitive art feel—and I didn’t feel like the filmmaking was doing a good job. It just didn’t seem that interesting in terms of the visuals, and I felt in the hands of a better filmmaker this could be a lot more interesting. (I later saw that this won the Camera d’or which surprised me a bit). I’m not necessarily talking about a great technical filmmaking, either. Maybe even a raw filmmaker like Melvin van Peebles would have made this a lot more interesting. (I’m thinking specifically of his direction in his early films.)
In the last third of the film, when the relationship between the father and daughter get clearer, I liked the movie more, but I’m still ambivalent about it.
Alright Jazz. I’m opening up a new joke thread in your honor. Please don’t take it personally but I hope we have some fun with it.
Edit: Here you go!"
Ryan said, The people shot fireworks, ate crabs and drank beer and liquor. Not only was there not a sense of an actual community present, but the reasons as to why the people want to stay didn’t seem to come off as anything other than pride. There were not any colors added to this sentiment, just one plain swatch of dour grey. Normally, something like this wouldn’t be important, but the film chooses to hinge pretty much its entire narrative structure on this.
On one level, I agree basically agree with these comments—and they’re key reasons I didn’t care for the film.
On the other hand, as I think about the film more, I think the people stay not just for pride, but because they have chosen to live that way and they feel they have a right to do so. There’s also a sense of self-reliance, self-resilience, independence that seems to be close to the heart of the film. This theme relates to the relationship between Hushpuppy and her dad and the way their relationship unfolds through the course of the film. Basically, the father is trying to raise her to become this fiercely independent, self-reliant person—and the film portrays this in a heroic way—culminating in Hushpuppy taming the wild boar-like creatures.
There is something about these themes and the way they’re portrayed that makes me think of the Zeitgeist now. Americans seem to have lost a lot of faith in their institutions. Who can we really depend on, but ourselves? The film seems to tap into that and lift this idea up. (In a way, it also feels like a post-apocalyptic movie, although it’s technically not.)
I like the way the film taps into these themes and the way it expresses them through the depiction of the community as well as tying that into Hushpuppy and her father trying to raise her. Nevertheless, I’m still think the pacing and the overall film isn’t so strong.
Which plot development are you referring to?
Also, I liked to hear from you and others about the shaky sense of logic in the film. (I’m not sure what you guys are referring to.)
You mean, you find this unbelievable, and you felt the film needed to explain how this was possible? I’ve seen homeless camps (let’s call them), and I don’t know if it’s the same people living there over many years, but they’re there doing the kinds of things you describe. (Actually, some of them have jobs, so maybe this is slightly different. But the people that lived in the Bathtub seemed to be living off the land. As for alcohol, I just assumed it was some form of moonshine. As for the gas for the boats, I’m not sure. But I’ve seen homeless people with generators—some with air conditioning!
It strikes me as the kind of film Danny Boyle would have made about the same subject.
Danny Boyle and something like his Millions comes to mind—but that film is much more polished than this one.
I didn’t think the film had a climate change agenda, although I guess that would be a valid reading of the film. Personally, I think that’s a side issue at best, though. I don’t think the narration was all that imaginative or effective; ditto the magical elements. As I said, I don’t think the filmmaking was all that great.
What were metaphors that failed for you?
I have comments on this.
It will take me a while though, because I feel like I have to separate a lot of arguments here where people said,
“A, thus B,”
“Well, A, thus C, so like B but not B’s resultant D.”
and it will be full of all sorts of semantics and so on.
In the meantime the one thing I most strongly admonish is that Ryan Estabrook’s “There’s no sense of community here” is absolutely incorrect because I see this movie as a breakdown of individual, family, community, and civilization.
Secondly, this movie is Gummo without the, “SEE HOW UGLY THEY ARE? HAHA, UGLY, UGLY PEOPLE, AREN’T THEY! GOD DAYUM THEY’RE UGLY!”
The trailer was emotionally manipulative, and I wouldn’t have gone had I not read some reviews and about how it’s “actually a fantasy film,” which meant a kid and her alcoholic dad live in squalor in post-apocalyptic, parallel universe New Orleans, and then global warming or the girl being an annoying child (as children are) set free some CGI prehistoric pigs that hunt the girl down so that they and the girl have a snout-to-snout moment of understanding.
What irritated me the most was that every character seemed to live in garbage, but then late in the movie there were hospitals, rescue stations, fast-food, cars, highways, helicopters, and modern American society (on the other side of a dam, duh, not in the tidal plain) which the film predictably rails against as restricting humans’ creaturely freedom to be animals and live in garbage. So the film begs the question, were the main characters all just feral homeless people living with mental illness in garbage or was the entire film an ill conceived Sundance-bait mishmash that didn’t plan out the elements of its fantasy world at all? Probably both.
Pluses: The kid was cute and feral and dumb exactly the way kids are and one would imagine a kid living in garbage would be, which was adorable. And the film looked cheap to shoot and produce in a Mad Max way of filming wreckage and intimating “It’s the apocalypse. That’s why everything sucks.” It’s also full of shoehorned pathos that barely hangs together but has all of the characters weeping or yelling at one another almost all the time. Otherwise, I’d have given it one star.
Gummo without the, “SEE HOW UGLY THEY ARE? HAHA, UGLY, UGLY PEOPLE, AREN’T THEY! GOD DAYUM THEY’RE UGLY!”
Gummo’s a lot sneakier than that though… that’s exactly what the movie wants you to think, but it has more to say than that.
Oh I’m exaggerating for comedic effect, DaFOO. I don’t think Gummo is all that bad of a movie and it does take on a topic that not often happens.
I just wanted a teaser for my upcoming wall’o’text!
>> late in the movie there were hospitals, rescue stations, fast-food, cars, highways, helicopters, and modern American society <<
I believe the unspoken implcation of this is that what’s left of the government and modern institutions have become a dystopian tyranny forcing those within their control to surrender their freedoms in return for protection from the elements. This is not overtly stated (one of the wonderful aspects of this film is the amount of information it leaves out, forcing us to fill in the blanks), but the actions of the protagonists make no sense if this is not the case.
I don’t think Gummo is all that bad of a movie
Haha well good then! I just bumped another thread on Gummo so as not to derail this one with my compulsion to defend that film.
“>> late in the movie there were hospitals, rescue stations, fast-food, cars, highways, helicopters, and modern American society <<
I believe the unspoken implcation of this is that what’s left of the government and modern institutions have become a dystopian tyranny forcing those within their control to surrender their freedoms in return for protection from the elements. "
Oh god no you people are ALL WRONG.
Here’s a hint: this isn’t a hundred years into the future. It’s like six or seven.
Why do people in tornado alley not just move away? Their houses thump have wheels?
^ A Carlos Mencia joke illustrating the presumption of comfort class Americans.
Let me clarify that statement a bit: the sense of community felt woefully underdeveloped, surface level and ultimately, I found it to be boring. Fireworks, parades, alcohol, oh my! I felt like they could have been more creative with that aspect, it seemed like a cheap way out. I honestly think the film would have been twice as good if they would have gone more into the surrealistic realm with the actual people, their histories, etc.
I wish Louis Bunuel could have been able to direct this.