Sunday, December 26, 2010

Winter's Bone-Film Review

A stark tale, Winter's Bone has as real a collection of rednecks as you will see on film. Jennifer Lawrence as 17 year old Ree Dolly struggles to keep what is left of her family together, a younger brother and sister, as the law is threatening to take the family property because her father didn't show up for court. Her father makes Crystal Meth and he is the unseen character in the film, casting a long shadow over Ree and her quest to save the family home. Jennifer Lawrence gives a great performance as a young woman who won't rat out the criminal gang that is her extended family as she searches for the truth. John Hawkes gives a brilliant, very real performance as her uncle Tear Drop. He is one scary dude.

Director Debra Granik has some very nice touches in the film in the detail department. The sound of crushed dead leaves underfoot, the Ozark music, the junk gathered in front of the houses, the trampoline, and the new cars amidst the poverty, the rural use of crystal meth, the stoic women who act as gatekeepers
to the various criminally-minded men in their lives. Good performance from some locals who had featured roles in the film.

Jennifer Lawrence who is just 19 now has never taken acting classes and had no formal training, and she shines on film.

The scene between Hawkes, Lawrence and the sheriff played by Garret Dillahunt is brilliant and feels so real. The Sheriff has pulled over the truck driven by Hawkes' Tear Drop and Lawrence is in the passenger seat. What happens is not what you would expect, but it makes perfect sense.

The local musicians glue the production together with their music, as indelibly a part of the atmosphere as are the sparse trees and the dilapidated properties.

This film was made for 2 million dollars and made over 6 million at the box office, as well as garnering numerous awards.

A couple of parting thoughts I had. Ree Dolly in not breaking the code of talking to outsiders manages to grab a victory of sorts with her integrity and her courage but her future is in the hard faces of the women she encounters on her trek through the rural landscape where the women are servants to the men. This is no Disney ending, and speaking of endings, I was disappointed by the solving of the mystery. It seemed anti-climatic, though well-shot, and surrounded by great atmosphere. It all seemed kind of rushed and ambiguous. Tear Drop has a great scene with the banjo near the end. I know what happens next, but I would have liked a stronger bridge to what happens next. The viewer is left to make assumptions.

But certainly, well worth the watching.

Rating ***1/2

Interview with Jennifer Lawrence

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