johnlink ranks WINTER’S BONE (2010)

Before seeing HUNGER GAMES in March, I literally could not have picked Jennifer Lawrence out of a lineup. I knew she had been nominated for Best Actress for WINTER’S BONE, but did not know much about the movie. After seeing her work in both of those films, as well as an eager turn in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, I think it is safe to say that she is a legitimately amazing who should be around for a long time…

I watched WINTER’S BONE (2010) on 6.14.12. It was my first viewing of the film.

This movie left me feeling much the way THE WRESTLER did. WINTER’S BONE takes place in a loosely civilized back-wood of Missouri. It’s an ugly and drab world made even more stark by the dead winter. Most every character is flawed, though the youth is presented as yet-to-be-tainted by the loose morals of their elders. There is very little light, very little hope. Ree (Lawrence) is a seventeen year old beacon, trying to do what she needs to protect her family.

The story starts with her taking care of her little brother and sister. Mom is in the house, but she is psychologically damaged and does not speak. Ree is responsible for care. The sheriff shows up to inform her that her missing father is due in court in five days on a drug charge. He had put the house up for bond, so if he is a no-show, the house goes away. The thrust of this movie, then, involves Ree searching for him.

She seeks out his contacts in the meth production business. These aren’t good people, or nice people. Her uncle physically intimidates her into leaving it all alone. She does not. She looks deeper. Everyone is trying to throw her off the scent, leading her to believe that he must be dead.

This is all complicated in the fact that everyone is related. This is my cousin, this is my uncle, this is my brother-in-law. Everyone has loyalty to each other to a certain extent, and so wants to approach a certain helpful line without crossing it, because to cross it would be to cross Thump, the patriarch of this particular region who can get away with anything he’d like (up to and including murder).

The story is present as a way to delve into the meanings of loyalty, family, responsibility, and integrity. There are a couple of twists in this film which are essential, and I don’t want to ruin them here. Suffice it to say that one’s role in a family, whether they embrace it or not, is the biggest question asked. It is not easily answered.

Ree sees the Army as an escape. Only she doesn’t realize that the $40,000 doesn’t come one day one, and she doesn’t know that her siblings can’t come with her. This seems naive, except there is no sense that any sort of truth makes it to where she lives. The recruiter scene is a gem. This usually becomes a ra-ra sequence with your stereotypical recruiter. Instead, the dialogue between Ree and the recruiter is one of the most human moments in a decidedly human film.

The acting here is of the highest level. Legitimacy rules the day, and we never get taken out of this film by an ‘actorly’ choice. Jennifer Lawrence is so amazingly genuine and heartbreaking and tough. It is easy to see why she was nominated for an Oscar, and even easier to see why she was a no-brainer to launch the HUNGER GAMES franchise. Her uncle, played by John Hawkes (nominated as Supporting Actor), is frightening. This is especially amazing after seeing him effectively play a meek custodian who has a vital role in CONTAGION.

This is a mostly solid script, especially when is comes to dialogue. Some of the scenarios do play out too simply, but others (like the recruiter scene and a quiet police stand-off) play brilliantly. The surprises are few and far between, though they are born from very human places so I can’t complain that this isn’t ‘twisty’ enough. But, oftentimes, the most simple answer turned out to BE the answer. Perhaps that is intentional, and perhaps I respect that.

While not the most entertaining film of the year, one is easily mesmerized by the performances. The young people in this are just so, so good. And the locals (many of them not actors at all) are spectacularly authentic. Despite the desperation and pessimism this movie leaves in its wake, it is impossible not to be inspired by the effectiveness of the story.

I am really glad I saw this movie. I admittedly have a certain level of skepticism when it comes to new stars, especially new young stars. I love it when I am proved wrong (not even wrong, really, but when I just give said person a chance and they turn out to be exceptional). Jennifer Lawrence makes a hell of a statement with WINTER’S BONE, and she’s continued to make it since. For me, it makes her one of the rare performers who have become appointment viewing.






~ by johnlink00 on June 15, 2012.

One Response to “johnlink ranks WINTER’S BONE (2010)”

  1. […] of ’10s’ this year. I gave 4 films perfect marks for ACTING (SHAWSHANK, TREE OF LIFE, WINTER’S BONE, and MANHATTAN). I gave 6 movies perfect WRITING scores (SHAWSHANK, CASABLANCA, INSIDER, CAINE […]

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