Saturday, March 16, 2013
Drama, Mystery 100 minutes
Directed by Debra Granik
Starring Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes
If you're a fan of Jennifer Lawrence after seeing The Hunger Games and Silver Linings Playbook, you might be interested in seeing the film that put her on the map. She gained a Best Actress nomination for her performance in Winter's Bone, and after seeing it for the second time, I have come to the conclusion that it may be a better performance than her 2013 Oscar-winning effort. I say that because of the demands of the role, and not because anything was lacking in her Oscar-winning performance.
Winter's Bone is an incredibly bleak story. Ree Dolly (Lawrence) is 17, and her very existence is a challenge. Her father is missing and about to stand trial for manufacturing crystal meth. Unfortunately, he put up their house as collateral for his bail, and it will be taken from her within a week if he fails to show up. Ree's mother rarely talks and is incapable of taking care of her and her young brother and sister. As a result, Ree is responsible for the entire family.
In order to resolve her situation, she must find her father. There's also the chance that he's dead, and she would have to prove it to the authorities if that turned out to be the case. So, Ree sets off to discover the truth. The story takes place in the Ozarks, and everyone she questions is aggressive, dangerous, guarded, or a combination of all three. It's risky to even pursue her investigation with some of those she encounters also mixed up in the illegal drug trade.
If you thought Lawrence was plucky in The Hunger Games, you'll be amazed by the things she has to deal with in Winter's Bone. This world is real, and director Debra Granik doesn't pull any punches. The result is a tense thriller, but it's not an action movie. The tension is more in the style of Hitchcock because we know that Ree is in danger the whole time.
The other outstanding performance in the film comes from John Hawkes as Teardrop. He doesn't say much, but his character oozes menace every time he appears. He also earned an Oscar nomination, and it's hard to argue with that decision. If you saw him as Mark in The Sessions, you might find it difficult to believe that Teardrop is played by the same actor.
Lawrence is off to a strong start with two Oscar nominations and a win by the age of 22. After seeing her play Ree Dolly, I think it's clear that she has a lot more range than most young actresses, and it will be interesting to see what she does over the next few years.
Winter's Bone is a scary place to visit, but it's a riveting piece of drama with superb acting. It didn't find a large audience in theaters, but the Blu-ray experience is a good one. Don't watch it if gritty realism isn't your thing.
Overall score 4/5
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