Monday, June 21, 2010

Winter's Bone

For those who do not know me: It's not likely that I would pass on a movie set and filmed in the Ozarks, so this one was a 'must see'.

Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) is a 17yr old mountain girl on a quest to find her not-good-for-much meth-cooking father, who put the family's cabin and land up for bond during his latest drug arrest. He's now gone missing, and she's got to find him, lest her little brother and sister and crazy-whacked emotionally comatose mother are cast out into woods.

Along the way she struggles to act as mother, protector and provider to her siblings, while enduring a life of crushing hillbilly poverty.

A little at a time, at threat to her own life, she begins to pull the loose ends together, grabbing clues where she can, dealing with some dangerous folks in an outlaw community where everybody knows something, nobody knows anything, talking is forbidden, and you best not ask.
She's determined, a survivor above anything else, who won't take heed or back down when she hits another dead end.
  • The film is strikingly real in it's realism. There are no overdone settings. It's as if they filmed within the actual homesteads of real Ozark rural dwellers. You can't fake what this camera saw. The clutter, the dust, and the grime. It's too subtle to be any other way.

  • Panoramic/scenery shots are not included. The Ozarks are known for their beauty, but none of this is included. It's not part of the story. Instead the camera films in close, capturing the people and dialogue, warts and all, in such an intimate way that draws the viewer into the drama, instead of as a spectator. It is as your own eye would see and focus on if you were there in the room, and not peeking through the window.

  • The gun culture is on full unabashed display, with zero swagger. Nobody is walking around with a .45, or wielding an AK-47. Firearms are tools of survival first. And is why everybody is not far from a shotgun or squirrel rifle. It's real, and not 'movie-like'.

  • There are no teeth-deficient "Deliverance"-types. No cliched presentations of what Hollywood thinks a hillbilly is, how they dress, or how they talk.

  • My favorite scene: Ree is teaching her siblings how to prepare the squirrels they just caught... in graphic detail. The camera gets in close. I've cleaned enough squirrels to tell you... these were real squirrels, freshly dead, with real guts and intestines spilling out around that knife.

  • Jennifer Lawrence is a very attractive young lady playing the lead. Yet, all of these good-looking looks are overlooked if not completely ignored. The story is the story, and this mission is never forgotten. She's also on camera for nearly every minute, and does such a fine job. Once again, it's the subtleties. The lack of obvious 'acting' that makes her role here so good. She is the character, and not playing the character. Very natural.

I don't recommend this one for everybody. Some movies are designed to entertain, while others tell a story using the artistic medium. This is of the latter. It may be the best film, from an artistic merit, that I'll see this year... and I've still got six months to go.

Maybe even two years.

Winter's Bone, official site Check it out.


kr said...

sounds like I might watch this one ... if it lasts more than one week (it opens Friday here). Thanks for the review.

I am not looking forward to the squirrels ... but I know you know a tightly built film when you see one.

Night Writer said...

When you said you were going to review a film set in the Ozarks I immediately feared you had come across an old John Wayne film "The Shepherd of the Hills". It's a little known film, and okay in it's way except it's barely related to the classic novel by the same name it was supposedly based upon (some sources list "Shepherd of the Hills" as the first American novel to sell a million copies.)

I may watch for this on DVD since I know the area and the "people". I imagine it will look a lot like some of the remote towns, like Tuscumbia, my brother and I drove through in his FedEx delivery truck last year.

Gino said...

kr: I think you'd like this one.

NW: the folks in the film dont talk anyhing like you do,though. maybe you been north too long?

Night Writer said...

Gino, you just haven't been around me at the right time. I grew up mostly in Indiana but all our "people" were in Missour-uh (that's how we pronounce it) so I spent a lot of time there for summers and holidays, romping with a passel of cousins and having my aunt threaten to "beat the pee-waddin" out of us, before we moved back when I was in high school. I went to college there and still get back a couple-three times a year for the last 34 years. My "accent" tends to shift with the geography and my companions.

One time down there, however, in a high school social studies class the teacher was talking about different cultural norms and expectations in different parts of the country and between small schools (such as the rural MO high school I was attending - graduation class of 74 students) and the larger metropolis schools where I had last been (750 in my class). The teacher said people learn (or "larn") to speak differently. One of my classmates asked me if there was that big of a difference.

Without a pause or a smile I replied, "Indubitably."

Which only proves that I'm a smart-ass in any vernacular.

Gino said...

NW: my guess was correct. doing some online investigation...
it appears the movie was indeed filmed in/on actual homesteads, using the locals as 'background' participants.

the child artwork displayed on refrigerators i knew had to be real.

J. Peterson said...

I had the chance to view this show on Saturday Night at the local arthouse theater. It was a very good movie. Than You for posting on it, and for letting everyone know that it was worth a look.

Gino said...

thank you, J.,for stopping buy, and the compliments.