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Overall Rating

Awesome: 34.38%
Worth A Look56.25%
Average: 3.13%
Pretty Bad: 3.13%
Total Crap: 3.13%

3 reviews, 14 user ratings

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Winter's Bone
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by brianorndorf

"Loathing of the hill people"
4 stars

The starkness of “Winter’s Bone” provides an immediate sensation of ache that comes to define the draining viewing experience. This is a bitter, stone-faced picture, with emotional explosions pushed down to the quiver of eyes and flaring of nostrils. For director Debra Granik, it’s familiar territory, having captured the intimate ravages of drug addiction in her 2004 feature, “Down to the Bone.” However, “Winter’s Bone” widens her scope, capturing a rural community of addicts, liars, brutes, and innocents caught in a web of poverty and crushing familial loyalty.

Tending to her younger siblings while her mother is paralyzed with depression, teenager Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) attempts to keep the family’s Ozarks log home afloat, dealing with hunger and financial ruin. Learning her deadbeat crank-manufacturing father has jumped bail, Ree is forced to track him down, told her house will be lost unless she can return him to justice. Realizing her only hope to find her dad is to engage her estranged family, Ree travels into the heart of the community, meeting a range of threatening faces determined to keep their criminal activities a secret. Assisting Ree is Teardrop (John Hawkes), her addicted, hot-tempered uncle who knows where to look, but remains reluctant to introduce Ree to such disquieting individuals.

“Winter’s Bone” reminded me of a Coen Brothers feature film without the overt sophistication. Steeped in local vernacular and oozing with an arresting, unnerving environmental presence, Granik builds an astoundingly evocative sense of the surroundings, creating a silent scream for Ree to investigate as she glumly walks the forests and farms of the land. Adapted from the novel by Daniel Woodrell, Granik and co-screenwriter Anne Rosellini preserve a literary tone to the piece, investing in the chilly details of the Ozarks to supply the feature with a frightening air of hostility as Ree encounters a series of bullies, creeps, and relatives. If the film lacks a certain pinch of mesmerizing drama, it makes up the difference with an exquisite lived-in quality. A frightening, yet crookedly poetic realism.

The center of this storm is Jennifer Lawrence as Ree, who gives an outstanding performance of feigned confidence. Essentially keeping together the family through chores and grim neighborly interaction, Ree is a teenager forced to assume the role of an adult. She’s looking for an escape with the Army, but her Southern pride can’t bear to see the family broken up, as the shame would be crippling. Lawrence instills the character with a firm poise and quick tongue, creating a believable veneer of hostility lunging toward most predators. It’s a sensational articulation of a vulnerable child pushed into an unnerving maternal stance, with Lawrence triumphantly shaping Ree as a hardheaded soldier fighting for her home -- the only shred of comfort she has left in her austere life.

Lawrence is paired well with Hawkes, who also stuns with his work here. A wired, wisp of a man, Teardrop is prone to violence, even ballsy enough to threaten the local sheriff, yet Hawkes dulls the roar, sustaining the character’s impulses to internal churn, making the man look even more disturbed.

What I enjoyed most about “Winter’s Bone” is how it opens as a mystery, following Ree as she hunts for her father, yet slowly drifts away from that structure, returning to the characters in the final act. To Ree and Teardrop, life or death isn’t the point, they just require proof to save the farm, and that frosty acceptance makes for a more compelling and sickeningly authentic motion picture. Instead of hysteria, Granik finds a more complicated note of accomplishment and purpose, leaving the feature to swirl in the senses long after it concludes.

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originally posted: 10/16/10 02:56:51
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2010 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Dallas International Film Festival For more in the 2010 Dallas International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Independent Film Festival Boston 2010 For more in the Independent Film Festival Boston 2010 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Provincetown International Film Festival For more in the 2010 Provincetown International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Seattle International Film Festival For more in the 2010 Seattle International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/13/13 David H. gritty, remarkable, with Jennifer Lawrence giving a star-making performance 5 stars
8/27/12 David Pollastrini Jennifer Lawrence is great in this. 4 stars
8/29/11 the truth too little plot for a movie, should've been a play 3 stars
7/17/11 Annie G A story about those ‘real Americans’ we are always hearing about … scary! 2 stars
5/02/11 Darkstar I hated every minute of it. Depressing hillbillys cook meth, one disappears. 1 stars
3/04/11 millersxing a light yet assured directorial hand seems to be at work here; it evokes John Sayles' work 5 stars
1/30/11 mr.mike Low key drama with "Deliverance" type cast. 4 stars
1/24/11 bill norris jennifer lawrence- hot . movie- pretty good 4 stars
12/07/10 lou film of the year draining ,thrilling, absorbing brilliant 5 stars
11/27/10 John Anthony top-notch 4 stars
11/06/10 dean shuck good film, vey serious, good acting 5 stars
7/16/10 damalc as thrilling and authentic as anything i've seen in years 4 stars
7/12/10 lWard Best film in a long time 5 stars
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  11-Jun-2010 (R)
  DVD: 26-Oct-2010


  DVD: 26-Oct-2010

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