I’m willing to give a low budget movie the benefit of the doubt. If a boom mike is in a shot or the camera is out of focus in a key scene I can still consider it a great movie, but one sin I will not forgive from a movie is a lack of story. This is the one ingredient sorely lacking in the award winning movie Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Beasts of the Southern Wild has a great sense of place of some underbelly in a Louisiana Bayou. In some corner where time forgot a father, his six year old daughter and assorted other alcoholics and miscreants live off crabs and crawfish. There are no cars or televisions. There are boats to take the denizens from place to place and goats and roosters serve as entertainment. Through the course of the movie you learn the setting is not the days of yore or a postapocalyptic future, but right now.
Describing the movie doesn’t make it seem half bad and the images of an exotic locale are enough for the many who have praised this movie, but I kept taking out my phone to look at the time as the movie elapsed. The ninety minute running time felt like three hours. The fact that Quvenzhané Wallis (the young girl who played Hushpuppy) and Dwight Henry (the actor who played her father) give performances magnetic enough to make you really care for them works against the movie. For you realize if the filmmakers gave this cast a script with a plot, Beasts of the Southern Wild could have been something special. Instead it feels lazy as though the filmmakers decided any lack of cohesion in the plot and narrative could be blamed on the movie being from a child’s point of view. They exploited their actors’ innocence and angst without giving anything back in return.
But if you want to talk about a real stinkfest let’s discuss Take This Waltz. The first strike against it is it stars Michelle Williams. Strike two is it co-stars Seth Rogan. Strike three is the opening scene shows Michelle Williams wistfully baking muffins with a Sarah McLachlan-esque song playing on the soundtrack. The movie proceeds to get even worse.
Take this Waltz shows a woman married to Seth Rogan who decides she’d prefer sexy time with the sensitive rick shaw runner who lives down the street. The movie prides itself on its whimsy which includes a locker room scene with naked, elderly women that I will never be able to cleanse from my memory. The movie then continues to get even worse. Twenty people were in the theater when the movie started. Eight of them walked out even before they got to the scene where the wife tearfully confessed an infidelity to her husband which did not even involve a kiss, just some annoying grade school flirtations. That’s forty percent of the crowd that valued their time. Good for them and shame on the rest of us for staying.