Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Juicy and Delicious, by Lucy Alibar

Juicy and Delicious (New York: Diversion Books, 2012) by Lucy Alibar is the play that inspired the film Beasts of the Southern Wild.  Alibar knew director Benh Zeitlin, and years after she wrote the play, he approached her about adapting it as a film.  Together they wrote the screenplay.  There are several major differences between play and film.  One is the gender of Hushpuppy, who was male in the play and female in the film.  Another is the setting—Georgia in the play and Louisiana in the film.  The play is impressionistic, in the fashion of what we might call magical realism.  Certainly it is told from the child’s viewpoint.  It has the same sort of whacky, off-beat, fanciful humor as the film.  The film uses much of the dialogue in the play, some of it nearly verbatim, some of it changed.  The fact that Hushpuppy becomes a girl in the film creates an additional level of humor and irony, especially in the scene where the father tells Hushpuppy that “you are the man.”  The play creates the story in the child’s imagination, and uses the aurochs as well as the approaching “end of the world” presaged by Hushpuppy’s schoolteacher Joy as a metaphor or representation of how the child is working his way towards acceptance of his father’s impending death.  The storm (considerably more of an event in the film) and the boat on which Hushpuppy embarks after the storm, and after his father’s death, are also part of the play.  Essentially, the film fills in details of plot and character without significantly reducing the fanciful nature of the play.  And while the play probably didn’t work very well in performance—it is too slight (and too short)—the film works very well.  What is surprising is how fully the film incorporates the essence of the play, its underlying issues and images and characters and motifs, but most of all its tone and atmosphere.

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