FILM REVIEW: 'Winter's Bone'


FILM REVIEW: 'Winter's Bone'


Date: July 28, 2010
by: Pam Nadon | Film critic


When an unknown actor delivers a jaw-dropping performance in a lead role, it's thrilling to watch. Jodie Foster pulled it off in "Taxi Driver," as did Hillary Swank in "Boys Don't Cry." Jennifer Lawrence manages to catapult herself to that lofty status in the new film, "Winter's Bone."

Set in the bleak hollers of Missouri's Ozark Mountains, the film opens with the disappearance of 17-year-old Ree Dolly's (Lawrence) father. The local sheriff informs Ree that her meth-cooking, deadbeat dad put the family's house up as bond and skipped bail. If he's not located within a week, their home will be repossessed.

Ree is the glue that holds her destitute family together. Her two young siblings and mentally ill mother completely rely upon her for sustenance. Squirrel for dinner is a feast; cash is non-existent. Forced to find her father — dead or alive — she must seek out drug-trafficking kin for information. She quickly discovers that they would just as soon kill her than help.

Director Debra Granik ("Down to the Bone") never resorts to cliché in "Winter's Bone." Rather than play the dumb hillbilly card, she exposes a ruthless crime culture with blood ties that rival those in "The Godfather." It's a sophisticated thriller full of amazingly real characters. Many of the actors are unrecognizable simply due to the fact they've never acted before. Faces you may have seen in other films are chin-scratchers. John Hawkes ("The Perfect Storm"), Dale Dickey ("Take") and Sheryl Lee (TV's "Twin Peaks") are so perfectly cast — expect to remember their names in the future.

One name you'll never forget after viewing this powerful film will be that of Jennifer Lawrence. Her fearless, seemingly effortless performance as a young girl doing whatever it takes to keep her family together is beyond riveting. She gets under your skin and you want to keep her there.

"Winter's Bone" won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year for director Debra Granik. If the Academy gets it right next year, Jennifer Lawrence should be walking home with Mr. Oscar.

— Pam Nadon

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Currently 1 Response

  • 1.
  • Great Movie!! I was raised in the Missouri Ozarks area where the film was set and filmed. This is the part of the US that loves Sara Palin, Rush Limbaugh (who is from Missouri) and voted for GW Bush twice. I have to say that the film was amazingly "true to life" in every detail. I would also like to say that you don't have to be desperately hungry to hunt and eat squirrels either. It is considered very good food in the hills. I have eaten it many times and it is delicious when cooked correctly.

    I have been dismayed reading many of these reviews calling it a "fake" and/or "phony" and contrived film. I do understand that the character of Ree Dolly certainly has many wonderful and admirable qualities that seem to have developed in a vacuum. Ree Dolly needs to be that sort of character for the rest of the film to work and not simply be a documentary of the endless poverty endured in the Ozarks for generation after generation. I grew up EXACTLY in that part of Missouri and Ree's character aside, it is EXACTLY correct in the look, the language and the behaviors there.

    I would also like to address the meth epidemic that has raced across huge sections of the rural Midwest America. I was raised in the Ozarks from 1963 until 2009 and I watched the moonshiners lose out as Sunday Blue Laws and Dry County Laws were voted down or abandoned. Then marijuana became THE big cash crop that survived and thrived for many years until "Daddy" Bush's anti-marihuana laws poured in tons of money to local law enforcement and new laws confiscating lands forced the richer growers indoors. It was finally in the mid 1990s when you began to see meth force out ALL the remaining marihuana farmers and moonshiners. Counties began to get in meth dealing Sheriffs and the old games were OVER. In my Ozark County (Morgan) during the late 1990s a deputy sheriff's home mysteriously exploded and then was investigated by the FBI. I watched as the marijuana became hard to find and evil meth take over.

    The people of the Ozarks have always been clannish, hostile to outsiders and proudfully ignorant and primitive in their opinions of society and politics. Those traits are nothing new or something that manifested due to meth. But the introduction of meth has struck down many good men and women who might have made the culture a tiny bit more tolerant or hopeful.

    But along with the continuing devastation of multi generational poverty and vastly inferior schools there is also a great beauty in the land and the people of the region that you can see in a short movie shot in the Ozarks at;
    Many an unbelievably gifted musician lived and died in those hills never having recognition from anyone outside of the hills.

    I strongly urge everyone to watch this movie because it is VERY
    truthful and realistic of how parts of the US survive. It also shows a part of America that is VERY often overlooked because many are (rightfully) ashamed that this sort of 3rd world poverty exits in the US. I personally feel that the Federal US government needs to inject a LOT more funding and OVERSITE of the rural school districts in order to overcome the generations of prideful ignorance that governs the mindset of many born into that rural America culture.
  • Loren Talbott
    Wed 29th Sep 2010
    at 4:52pm
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