Nominations: Screenplay (previously produced material), Actress (Quvenzhané Wallis), Directing & Picture of the Year.
Quite simply, I loved this movie. Benh Zeitlin’s directorial debut about a young girl who describes her understanding of the universe is gritty and magical, grassroots, poetic, heartbreaking and beautiful; it drags us in, wrenches the heart and considers all the wonder and decay of the Deep South. Don’t get me wrong, despite my gushing review this film is far from perfection but the emotion of it is enough to carry the whole.
What I liked: Quvenzhané Wallis is a revelation as Hushpuppy and Zeitlin does a brilliant job telling the story through her eyes; especially with voice-over narration that eases the film forward with delicate quips about her views on the world. Dwight Henry, who plays her retreating father, is also commendable in his first ever performance and the relationship between the two is poetry – in all its anger, love and honesty. The creative camera work and editing yanks us into the Bathtub, so much so that we are transported, not only into their world but also into their understanding of it.
What I didn’t like: If we’re going to compare stories then most of the other nominees in the Oscar screenplay category are probably better told tales. The story here feels like an idea moving forward. There is no real plot and at times the jump cuts took me out of the film and I had to reorient myself. That said, the heart of this film and the creativity in which it unfolds is the driving force behind it. The narrative is crafted beautifully by Zeitlin and carried out heart and soul by Wallis. When I think about it, I still feel the emotion of it, and that is no small feat.
My rating: My favourite film of 2012 so far.
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%