A few years ago, I read Daniel Woodrell's WINTER'S BONE and found much to admire. Set in the most destitute portions of our nation, the Ozark country of southern Missouri...it told the story of young Ree Dolly, a 17-year-old girl and her desperate efforts to find her missing father and bring him to court before his bail is revoked. Because the bail her dad put up was the deed to the Dolly house and land. This would have left Ree and her two young siblings and her mentally ill mother homeless.
The book showed in great detail a land wracked by poverty and ruined by crystal meth. An insular society where the only code is not revealing anything to the outside world, especially law enforcement. But a society where women, especially teen girls, are not allowed to snoop and pry into the doings of the men. A society in which being beaten or killed for asking the wrong question is tolerated. A world of grinding poverty, poor health care and terrible education. And in the midst of all this, was the heroic Ree...smarter than everyone around her, but also forced to accept a role beyond her years.
The book was atmospheric and well-written. But it was slowly paced and ultimately a bit boring.
Now the film version has come along, and it captures the book nearly perfectly. Both the successes and the failures. The film does an outstanding job of capturing the landscape and the desolation. There are many movies that show bleak landscapes and somehow make them beautiful. WINTER'S BONE shows an area that is deeply unattractive and does not try to show any hidden beauty or stark nobility. It's cold and it's covered with trash. You look at the land, and realize that no one COULD ever prosper there...the poverty we see has bled into the land. This is very effectively captured throughout the movie.
Ree Dolly, who is in every scene of the film, is played by Jennifer Lawrence. She looks a little like a young, cherubic Renee Zellweger. It's her first major role, and she is thoroughly committed and accomplished. Her accent is perfect, and she captures the great intelligence of her character. It's an intelligence that has been muted by circumstance. And she's also very brave, because she knows she has no choice but to succeed in her quest, even at the risk of her own safety. Most other roles are fairly small, but all are played well. I particularly liked John Hawkes, who played Ree's Uncle Teardrop. A mildly dangerous man who feels compelled to help out his kin.
So there was much to admire in the film. It certainly treated the book faithfully. And thus, the movie was slowly paced and boring. It was frankly hard to care much about most of the characters. Even Ree is mostly compelling intellectually, not emotionally. Everyone tends to move very slowly, and there are just a lot of scenes of Ree walking from place to place. Again, we get a GREAT sense of the place...but if I just wanted to look at landscapes, I'd watch a Terrence Malick film. I want some compelling story, purpose or character to draw me along...and to a large extent, that is just missing. And as with the book, the ending is anti-climactic. It fits the whole morose, slow-paced tone of the story...but it also results in a film that never raises our pulse. Honestly, I simply struggled to remain awake to the end, even though the movie is only 98 minutes.
Jennifer Lawrence may get a well-deserved boost to her career with WINTER'S BONE. And often, a good performance is enough for me to recommend seeing a film...I think good acting needs to be seen and appreciated. However, the film has too many other problems, and I'd recommend passing by this dark, dreary journey.
I am not exactly sure how I am going to begin a review on director Deborah Granik’s “Winter’s Bone”. The film is so undeniably simple at first impression, doubtless those folks who have seen a good number of genre films and independent movies have come across movies with strong similarities. Yet, I find this film quite compelling and effective with how it develops its story. Depressing films have the strong potential to be brilliant no matter how simple its premise is; and … more
WINTER’S BONE Written by Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini Directed by Debra Granik Starring Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes Ree Dolly: Never ask for ought to be offered. WINTER’S BONE tells you immediately what tone to expect for the duration of your journey. Two young children bounce up and down on a trampoline that sits outside a dilapidated wood cottage that is surrounded by discarded playthings and car parts. A folk waltz about … more
Ree has enough to deal with, even before she finds out her house is due to be taken away. She's just seventeen, and stuck running the household, with two younger siblings to feed and a catatonic mother to care for. She does a good job, given meager resources - but her father's been away a long time, out on bail for cooking crystal meth, and he put up the house and the land as collateral. The only thing for it is to find him, and nobody wants to help, and she comes to see that knowing can … more
"Winter's Bone," adapted from the novel by Daniel Woodrell, is a stark, raw, and gritty masterpiece of storytelling, a thoroughly absorbing detective story that goes above and beyond the reliable conventions of mystery solving. It's a quiet, harsh, and unflinching societal drama set deep within the Ozarks, a world of cold forest lands, small houses that look slopped together from spare parts, cars perpetually hoisted on cinderblocks, and distrustful mountainfolk who all seem to … more
Deep in the backwoods of Missouri, 17-year old Ree Dolly has a hard life; she's raising her siblings, caring for her mentally-ill mother, and running the house all by herself. Her father, a meth cooker, has jumped bail and the family will lose their home if he can't be brought in to the law so Ree must go to all of her kinfolk for help, even though she knows their code of silence is enforced by beatings - and worse. This low-budget film is excellent, reminiscent … more
Talk about dreary! Basically what we have here is a brilliantly acted, well-directed film with an insightful screenplay. The story, which takes place in a sort of white trash paradise, is full of quiet moments of reflection and desperation. If you want a feel good film, look elsewhere. This one is for the Gloom Patrol. I liked it.
Ree is a 17-year-old girl who lives with her mother and two younger siblings in Missouri hillbilly country. For some reason -- if it was explained, I missed it -- her mother is almost comatose so Ree is in charge of cooking and cleaning and caring for her 12-year-old brother, Sonny, and her 6-year-old sister, Ashlee. Ree doesn't go to school -- I suppose it's possible that she's already graduated -- and she'd like to join the military, but her family obligations make this impossible. … more
Winter's Bone might be the best movie I've seen this year, or even last year. There's not a false note in acting, directing, design, photography - just not a false note, period. It's America as the third world - lest we forget every Shining City on the Hill has it's shanty towns - but it doesn't romanticize the hard-scrabble lives these characters live. It's also America as the Dark Ages with warlords, forest families, and mayhem. And, it's the back country mafia hard at work cooking and selling … more
Family loyalty and self-reliance take on whole new meanings in this dark story of one family's desperate struggle to survive in the Ozark woods of southern Missouri. Day-to-day life is tough in the economically depressed, unforgiving harsh rural landscape that's home to the extended Dolly clan, but it's made much tougher thanks to their history of cooking crank and deep involvement in the local drug culture. For Jessup Dolly and the other men of the family, looking out for oneself has become the first priority. Seventeen-year-old Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) has been caring for her mentally ill mother and her two younger siblings while her father runs from the law. Ree has been managing OK, but when the sheriff shows up with news that her father has put the house up as bond collateral and is unlikely to show for his court date, things get desperate. Ree is well aware of the family code of silence, but desperation forces her to confront her relatives in search of her father, regardless of the personal consequences. One by one, Ree's relatives refuse to help, protecting themselves even at the cost of one of their own. This is a dark, often violent film that doesn't shy away from the harsh realities of the manic drug culture permeating some rural areas of the South. It is intense, emotional, and extremely effective: it is at times simultaneously uncomfortable to watch and paradoxically riveting. Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, and Dale Dickey deliver phenomenally ...