Best Films 2010: Nuanced, authentic, suspenseful Winter's Bone
Jan 10, 2011 (Updated Jan 10, 2011)
Review by ChrisJarmick
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, location, photography, direction, script.
Cons:A bit bleak for some.
The Bottom Line: An understated superbly acted gem. It's quietly brutal, nuanced and one of the best movies of the year.
Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
Recommend this product?
Winter's Bone is a quiet kind of powerful movie that will get under your skin with its authentic characters and wind up being one you aren't soon to forget.
It's a tough uncompromising movie about a family struggling to survive in the Missouri Ozarks. Jennifer Lawrence (who surely deserves Oscar nomination) becomse Ree Dolly, a 17 year old girl who acts as food gatherer, protector and homemaker for her younger brother and sister. Her mother has had a nervous breakdown and is zoned out on drugs. Her father who was jailed for cooking meth was recently released on bond, but has gone missing.
Then, it turns out to make bond and get out of jail, Ree's dad put up the cabin and acreage the family owns. That means if he doesn't show up for his court date, Ree and her 12 year old brother, 5 year old sister and 40 something near catatonic mother will be thrown out of their home in the dead of winter. Ree has got to find her father and make sure, somehow, he shows up for court.
That's the story the movie tells. Every frame of this film feels authentic. Many of the supporting actors and actresses were cast from local talent who've been part of the Missouri locations where this was filmed all of their lives ( and look it). These locations include family owned farms and compounds that have been passed from one generation to another since the 1800s.
It feels like a true story, but it's based on a novel. Debra Granik directed this gem respecting the audience's intelligence to be fascinated and moved with the characters and the locations she uses to flesh out the script she wrote with Anne Rosellini based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell.
The film was a double prize winner at 2010 Sundance film festival and has taken other top festival prizes. For those who have seen Walker Evan's famous photographs of the Ozarks in the 1930s, you'd swear you were seeing a slight updated filming of them due to Michael McDonough's Director of Photography exemplary work.
There are too many quiet little moments and surprises to tell you about throughout the movie. There are also some extremely suspenseful moments that reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock at his very best. I can't tell you about some of these moments without giving away a few things about the movie and I'm not going to take away any of the movie's power, grace, or subtle nuance by writing too much about it. This is one worth seeing a few times.
The characters we meet through Ree Dolly's eyes are what makes this movie memorable. You'll see a lot of interesting, rugged faces that you won't soon forget. 17 year old Ree is played by 19 year old newcomer Jennifer Lawrence who learned how to shoot guns, chop woods, skin a squirrel and become the character she plays. She's a quiet American hero, the kind you might read about in an journal about the settling of a territory in the early 1800s. Now she's in a world where the moonshiners of yesteryear have become the methamphetamine makers of today.
Ree's uncle, named Teardrop is a drug addict who still has a little bit of compassion and responsibility left in him. He doesn't want to help Ree find his brother Jessup for a couple of reasons, but it might inevitable that he has to do this. John Hawkes performance is superb.
All of the characters we meet, the faces we see are just right. Director Granik knows exactly how to tell this story, using subtlety and nuance and a medium pace that allows us to take in the places we visit and study the faces we see long enough to feel like we've been to this place.
A couple of weeks ago I saw another story about a strong adolescent girl having to be strong and heroic in her quest (True Grit) and here is another tale about a different girl you also won't forget. This one lives in the world of today-though most of us won't ever see the place she's from. She also has no heroic law man or bounty hunter to turn to for help. She's alone and has to become something more than an ordinary hero to save her family.
The feature length audio commentary by director Debra Granik and director of photography Michael McDonough talk quite a bit the details of the production, the characters and their appreciation for the local people they met and worked with.
There's a unique Making of featurette that is simply made of behind the scenes footage without interviews or voice over narration. I really enjoyed watching this. There is also a brief alternate opening and 4 deleted scenes (that were not needed in the final film).
There are also several trailers for other feature films.
Winter's Bone is the story of 17 year old Ree's journey to save her family. Director Granik never sacrifices authenticity for the sake of an audience pleasing cliché' or yahoo moment. We witness a gripping story and look over the shoulder of a young lady who makes herself into a quiet hero. The acting, locations, script and dialogue could not be any better. It's one of the very best of the year. See it soon.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
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