Thursday, February 17, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW: Winter's Bone

The breakout film of the 2010 Sundance film festival was this little picture called Winter's Bone which won the Grad Jury Prize. Directed by Debra Granik from a script co-written by the director and Anne Rosselini, adapted from the novel of the same name by Daniel Woodrell. Woodrell is known for his bleak crime novels set in the Ozarks and the film sets out to capture the bleak depiction of desperate poverty which leads to rampant criminality in rural areas. And nails it.

The film stars Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly, John Hawkes as Teardrop, Dale Dickey as Merab and Garrett Dillahunt as Sheriff Baskin. Lawrence (Best Actress) and Hawkes (Best Supporting Actor) have received acting nominations for the 2011 Oscars. Frankly, I thought Dickey was robbed for not getting a Supporting Actress nod but that category, like every year, was pretty tough this year. The film was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.

I first saw the film on a flight and only caught 90% of it since I was grading papers at the time but even absent-mindedly watching the film you come away with an impression of an austere landscape and emotionally draining movie. Later as the end-of-year accolades started piling up for Lawrence's performance (which are fully deserved--it's amazing what she does as a 20-year-old actress playing a teenager here) I rented the film via so the Other Half could see it, and I could watch it (again),with my full attention. Even knowing the major plot points the second time, the film has an absorbing, powerful impact.

The basic story involves Lawrence who plays a 17-year-old girl named Ree Dolly whose father has disappeared after putting up the house where Ree, her two much younger siblings (8-year-old sister and 12-year-old brother) and mentally addled mother live, as collateral for his bail bond. If he doesn't show up, then the Sheriff says they will have a week to get out and go somewhere, but as the film makes very clear (with multiple shots of burned out cars, tiny colorless houses packed to the wrappers with detritus and mementos) Ree has nowhere else to go. Ree is determined to find her father, dead or alive, in order to save her family, and this entails her being forced to come face-to-face with the more unsavory branches of her gnarled family tree, most specifically her uncle (named Teardrop for the tattoo on his face) as well as her neighbors who will apparently do almost anything to hide their secrets from strangers and family alike.

Title: Winter's Bone.
Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.
MPAA Rating: R for some drug material, language and violent content.
Release Date: June 11, 2010.

Plot: B.
Acting: A+.
Visuals: A-.
Impact: A-.

Overall Grade: A- (3.667/4.0). 

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