Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New Release (Kind of): Winter's Bone

Jennifer Lawrence - keep an eye on her.
Every Monday, a theater about an hour away shows very second run indie or foreign flicks.  It's usually the only way those kinds of movies make an appearance in theaters.  However, they pay no attention to the DVD release date, so I've often already seen the movie by the time it appears on the big screen.  Winter's Bone was released on DVD recently, but thanks to the encouraging comments by Scott and Whitney at Frankly, My Dear and The Mad Hatter during our podcasting this weekend, I trekked to the theater to see it on the big screen.  They were right - this is a movie that was meant to be seen in a dark theater with no distractions. 
The story is simple: Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) takes care of her younger brother, sister, and infirm mother.  Her absentee father has been arrested and in order to get bonded out of jail, put up their house and land for collateral.  Now he's missed his court appearance and the bail bondsman wants his due.  Ree decides she needs to find her father to be sure she doesn't lose the house.  Basically, this was what I knew when I went into the theater, and was the better for it.  The only reference in the movie to where it takes place is near and Arkansas border, so the Ozark mountains likely.  Ree is related, in some fashion, to all the people she goes to to try to find her dad, but that doesn't mean they won't kill her if she crosses them.  There are obviously family feud's going on, and since they're all part of illegal meth operations, it's not surprising they fight to the death (either by blowing up their houses, or actually dumping them in a 'holler').  Lawrence is amazingly bad-ass trying to stay strong.  The gender roles among the families are strong - only women can beat up other women, men shoot other men.  They govern their own, and at least at a minimum level take care of their own.  There are moments of levity from the tension building as we find out the level of difficulties Ree faces, but mostly they continue to build tension throughout the film, with a few OMG moments, a few "jump in your seat, this is going to end badly" moments.  One thing that struck me in particular is the relatively unknown status of the actors.  There were a few I recognized, but only in a very general sense, and it added to the tension of who would survive or help our heroine.  Overall, the pacing, cinematography, and design of the movie are terrific - award worthy in almost every aspect.  5 of 5 lambs/stars


rorydean said...

Hi'ya Jess,

Caught your review of Winter's Bone, thought I'd see what you had to say after I recently reviewed it over at Above the Line (Come over and see me some time).

I have to agree this is a dark theater no distraction kind of film, one built on scarcity and minimalism with characters not so much shaped as carved from the cold, cruel landscape of their world. I wanted to watch this on in the theater but missed it. When I finally got to it, it was late, really late, the kind of late where you don't know side from looking at a clock whether it is night or morning, and I had a little Scotch and was entranced from the beginning.

It's not a film for everyone. I know plenty of people who would not have lasted ten minutes but if you're into character-centric, deep and truthful human emotions, this film delivers. Good points about the world in the film, that's partly what attracted me to what really amounts to a 'road trip' movie only instead of a road there is Ozark mountains and cold snowy bandlands and the journey is more a reckoning than a personal triumph. I mean it seems like Ree is better off in the end but clearly forever changed. She's transformed in the end, no longer a girl, no longer a child, she is a woman and no one or nothing will ever take that away from her.

Enjoyed your review. Would love to hear your thoughts on mine if you're so inclined.


Buttercup said...

This is one of the best movies I've seen this year. Can't speak too highly of it. Of course, it's not for everyone.