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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Winter's Bone is Cold but Good


Winter's Bone: 4 out of 5 Stars
Sheriff Baskin: Jessup signed over everything. If he doesn't show up to trial see, the way the deal works is, y'all gonna lose this house. Y'all got somewhere to go?
Ree: I'll find him.
Sheriff Baskin: Well I've been looking.
Ree: I said I'll find him.
So here's a drama that manages to incorporate some family drama as well as elements of a noir film. And it's set in the Ozarks! This is a very well acted story, that makes great use of its setting and offers up a solid enough mystery of sorts.


Jennifer Lawrence stars as Ree Dolly, a 17 year-old girl, making the best of a situation. She lives at home, taking care of her two younger siblings and her very far gone mother. The father, Jessup, a known meth cooker, has disappeared, which is bad for Ree. The local sheriff alerts her of his pending court date and the fact that he put up the family house for a bail bond. If Jessup fails to appear in court, the house will be lost. Ree must now do some detective work of her own, in order to hopefully track down her father, despite whatever problems she may encounter by asking too many questions.

The standout element of this film is Jennifer Lawrence. She is great in this role. A young actress, clearly destined to break out into bigger things from here, her character, Ree, is tough and knowledgeable enough to know how to get by. However, just the same as with some protagonists in older noir films, she is very much an alienated character. Her motivations to join the army are not going anywhere, as she must tend to her family, and they are only just getting by off scraps and generosity from their neighbors. Let alone the fact that her father's reputation has made her somewhat distant from other folks around the area. More great work comes from John Hawkes as Jessup's brother. Hawkes again manages to slip into a role that is very different from his last. Despite his distinctive face, this man is a solid character actor that I enjoy seeing.

Having been filmed on location in the Ozarks of southwestern Missouri, this is a film very good at looking cold and stark. This is of course the intention, as the film deals with dark subject matter, and is quite honest in its portrayal of the area. Few films make me ponder how good a squirrel can taste in a time of need, but this film certainly does. Low budget filmmaking at its finest here.

Despite all the good elements of this film, it is certainly dark material, with very little to make you feel good when it's over. That's not to say it isn't entertaining, but don't expect much comic relief to help out here. This is a solid feature all around, with some great performances, just be ready for the drama to unfold.
Little Arthur: You know there's people going around saying you best shut up. People you ought to listen to.

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