Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik) 2010

Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) is a 17 year old girl in the backwoods of the Ozarks who takes care of the remnants of her family. Her father has gone missing after putting up the family house to pay for his bail. Ree has to find her father and try to convince him to go to court or else they will lose the house.

This is kind of like a white trash noir. Instead of wise cracking gangsters in suits you have nasty tweekers and their problems. However I would say the difference is that Winter’s Bone is not so much about an intriguing mystery. I was able to make a guess pretty early on as to where the father was. Winter’s Bone isn’t so much concerned with twists and turns as it is with interesting characters.

This movie is all about the character of Ree who is written brilliantly. She is a strong willed character, but unlike most Hollywood attempts at making strong female characters, does not go overboard. Ree is not afraid to speak her mind, but she knows the position she is in. She is going amongst her father’s associates who are not exactly open to letting anyone in on their business. Much of the drama generated is so authentic. We are not exactly talking about briefcases containing missile codes or millions of dollars or whatever macguffin of the week. Ree is fighting to keep their run down house so she can take care of her mother’s two kids (Ree’s mother is disabled). In essence, Ree is fighting to stay one step above rock bottom. In doing so she runs across her other shady family members. Teardrop (John Hawkes) is not some typical bad guy. At first, Teardrop puts on so much of a scary front it may seem like a stereotype. But by the end he is almost as compelling as Ree.

As I said, most of the drama comes from guessing what the characters will do. How far will Ree go to save this house? What will these other people do to protect the secret? Why is Teardrop trying to scare her away and simultaneously helping her? What will happen if Ree’s father won’t come back. You grow to care about this character that you are genuinely invested in what happens to her.

This is helped by the acting of Jennifer Lawrence. I have not seen her in anything else but she carried this movie. This was great casting as you needed someone young who could also give a compelling performance. I look forward to seeing her in other stuff. John Hawkes, who is usually delegated to small character roles, also does a very good job when given a larger role to work with.

Winter’s Bone was a surprise for me. I am usually leery of these little indie award winners (mostly because I have never heard of some of these film festivals) but this actually lived up to the praise. I’m not sure how much replay this movie will have for me. For me, one time was enough and I think that hurts my rating overall. But this is a very entertaining movie and is worth checking out.

 

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