Dave Finally Watches: Beasts of the Southern Wild

If you’ve been waiting on a copy of Beasts of the Southern Wild from Netflix, I’m sorry. We held on to one for, like, months, because neither of us could bring ourselves to have our hearts ripped out, which is what we were expecting. We finally got up the nerve this past weekend.

This is a beautiful, heartbreaking, funny, problematic movie. The posters describe it as “magical” and make it sound like it’s from Pixar or Hogwarts, and I guess that’s because there’s a bit of business in it that doesn’t quite jibe with what people expect from a movie. (These are the same folks, I think, who describe a film as brain-twisting when there’s some non-chronological narrative or something remotely fantastic takes place.) The fact that there are giant monsters (sort of) and its narrated by a child have made people treat it like some kind of fairy tale, but it’s a solid, grown-up movie saying some real things.

The things it’s saying — about class, about race, about gentrification and disaster capitalism, about well-meaning but misguided charity — are multifaceted and not straightforward, to the point where it also makes some pretty disturbing and troublesome statements along the way. It’s not easy to tease these threads out of the whole, and following them casts some unflattering light on the rest. But that’s not a criticism, that’s praise. This could have easily been the movie the posters seem to think it is, but it’s not, it’s far more subversive than that (whether by accident or design, I don’t know.)

Beasts of the Southern Wild is a movie that will stick with you. It doesn’t let itself be easily sorted and processed. There’s a lot going on with it, and I’m glad we finally watched this copy and let it make its way to the next person.

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