A young woman in the meth-infested Ozarks has to find her father before the courts seize her family's home.
Directed by Debra Granik
Starring Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes
Initial Review by Shane Setnor
It’s a rare feat for Hollywood to include the subtle nuances that go with living in the country. Country people can be terrifying, but it’s not in the Let’s-Rape-These-City-Boys way. It’s not (usually) in an overt racist manner. It comes from a terrifying ambiguity of the way they talk and look. Usually folks in the country have worked hard, and it wares on their face and skin. And if someone has on dirty clothes, it could be out of desperation or it could be because they were working that day. So when someone throws out a term like “child” and follows it up with something serious or demanding, it leaves you confused. And that confusion is more terrifying than a, “I’m gonna beat your ass.”
Winter’s Bone 100% accurately encapsulates this fear. Far better than any movie about people in the country has ever done before. Not only do we know and recognize the cast, but we relate to Jennifer Lawrence (Ree Dolly), who is outstanding at combining a look of innocence with a fuck-you-stay-out-of-my-way attitude. I’m not certain how many actresses could believably pull off the performance that Lawrence does, and without it, we’re looking at a B- movie.
Perhaps the most frightening of all was John Hawkes as Teardrop. Hawkes always has a quiet confidence about him and that, combined with his wiry frame, reminds me of any dozen characters I’ve seen in rural bars that have terrified me to be around. The type where you don’t want to even talk with them because they seem so unpredictable and uncaring about anything but their most base and immediate emotions.
The way Lawrence and Hawkes dance with these characters and fulfill a believable arc of change is what takes this movie from a B+ to an A-.
It falls short of an A, however. The movie does pace a bit slowly in the middle third. Also, some of the side actors who are most definitely not professional actors, are a bit flat. None more than the terrifying than Ronnie Stray Dog Hall (Thump) who can’t quite keep up with John Hawkes.
Overall, the authentic feel of this movie is so rich and familiar that I can’t help but recommend it to anyone who has ever lived in a rural or semi-rural setting.