MOVIE: Winter’s Bone (2010)

Earlier this year, when this film was in local theaters, I kept meaning to go see it and then putting it off until, finally, I had missed its entire run.  Still intrigued by the story, I picked up a copy of the novel it was based on, by Daniel Woodrell, and then . . . never got around to reading it.  Hmmm.

The problem?  I think it was that I knew this was going to be a grim story — it’s about meth addicts in the rural Ozarks, after all — and I wasn’t sure it was also going to be a story great enough to warrant the bummer.

But man, was I ever wrong to doubt, because though this movie is definitely a serious downer, it’s also absolutely brilliant.

The plot focuses on a 17 year-old girl named Ree Dolly who lives in a very poor community in the mountains.  Ree’s been the primary “adult” of her household for years, taking care of her little brother and sister while her mother sits nearby, incapacitated by severe depression, and her father, Jessup, moves in and out of jails and meth labs, an addict and cooker who hasn’t really been a part of the family for years.

When a cop comes by the house one afternoon, Ree braces herself for the latest in bad news, knowing it’s probably got something to do with her dad.  She figured he’d been arrested again, but is stunned to hear that ain’t the half of it.  Not only has Jessup been arrested, the trooper tells her, but he put the Dolly house up as collateral for his bail — and hasn’t been heard from since.  The cop tells Ree if he doesn’t turn himself in within the week, she and her family will lose their home.  Ree pauses for a moment, letting the weight of the news sink her down, then quickly straightens up and declares with confidence, “I’ll find him.”

She immediately sets out to do just that, something that takes her into pretty dangerous territory.  Jessup’s circle of acquaintances, mostly all related to each other and the Dollys in one way or another, are also all criminals and meth heads, and none too keen on little girls asking nosy questions.

Ree’s uncle, Jessup’s brother Teardrop (powerfully played by ex-Boyfriend John Hawkes), tries to scare Ree into digging no deeper, leading her to suspect her father’s been the victim of foul play.  But when she continues to pursue the truth and is beaten severely for it, Teardrop finally takes a stand against the family himself — at great risk to his own life.

This story is heartbreaking on so many levels, not just because of the awful havoc wreaked by the combination of meth and poverty, but because of the incredible courage of this teenage girl who carries more weight of responsibility than I do, and does it with twice my strength and grace.  There wasn’t a single moment during this film when I doubted Ree could and would save her family, even as she was being kicked in the ribs repeatedly or forced to pull a corpse out of icy water with her bare hands.

New actress Jennifer Lawrence is stunningly talented (not to mention just plain stunning), and I can’t wait to see what she does next.  She brings Ree Dolly to life with a vibrancy I haven’t seen from a new actor in a really long time.

Beautifully shot, brilliantly acted, and brazenly authentic, this movie is absolute aces.  Do not miss!

[Netflix it | Buy it from Amazon]

Genre: Drama
Cast:  Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Dale Dickey, Garret Dillahunt, Lauren Sweetser, Isaiah Stone, Ashlee Thompson

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8 Responses to “MOVIE: Winter’s Bone (2010)”

  1. Trip Says:

    Getting this one via Netflix today!

    On a completely unrelated note, I checked out Black Swan over the weekend. Since it’s directed by Darren Aronofsky, I figured it wouldn’t really be about ballet so much as it’s set in that world, and I was right. It’s got the mark of Requiem for a Dream all over it, but in a good way.

    It’s got all the creepiness and unsettling reality-cracking-at-the-edges touches that Aronofsky puts in stories like this, but it’s also gorgeously shot, and I thought the ending was very appropriate and satisfying.

    Plus, it’s got ballerinas behaving badly, and how can you really go wrong with that? Recommended.

  2. Meg Says:

    Is Black Swan out in Seattle? I was looking for it yesterday and couldn’t find it!

  3. Lorraine Says:

    Hi Meg. I haven’t commented in a long time but I felt compelled to say something about this movie. I thought it was outstanding. Everything you say is true. I was almost disappointed that I recognized a few of the actors because otherwise it felt like I was peering at someone’s life. This movie is in my top 3 of the year so far, maybe the best.

  4. Trip Says:

    Meg – yes indeed – it’s at Pacific Place and the Guild 45th.

  5. Meg Says:

    Aha — I didn’t look at those two. Was hoping for the Metro so I could swing by after work this week. ALAS. Perhaps I’ll have to settle for Due Date.

  6. Trip Says:

    Yeah, this one was strong. Teardrop especially – liked his arc and how he took his stand for the family at the barn. It’s tough to describe this without spoiling, but I liked how it was *not* a Hollywood sort of ending for her quest (the rowboat scene) – definitely appropriate given the subject matter.

    I wouldn’t really characterize this story as a “downer”, though…it’s bleak for sure, but the determination and desperation shown by the main characters could just as easily be inspirational. I sure thought so.

  7. megwood Says:

    It’s inspirational, sure, in that she’s amazing and courageous and strong and has overcome so much. But when all is said and done, she’s still a 17 year-old girl in charge of raising her two little siblings while her mother sits by completely incapacitated by mental illness and her father remains forever out of the picture. She’ll still be living in a painfully poor community riddled with horrifically destructive methamphetamine abuse. It’s hard to be all that giddy with joy at her prospects for the future. She saved her family — this round, for now. What’s waiting for her in six months? A year? What she managed to do was essentially maintain her status quo. And her status quo kind of sucks. That’s what I meant by “downer.” I’m thinking beyond the film itself, outside the borders. That character really came alive for me — I’m worried about her. See?

  8. Trip Says:

    OK, I’m feeling down NOW. Thanks, MEG!

    The little girl picked up the banjo at the end…and they’re only, what, 40 miles from Branson? Plus, the Army will still be there in a year. Find the light already! Nyeah!

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