Movie Review: Winter's Bone (2010)

Folks, say hello the front-runner for Best Pic of 2010.

Winter’s Bone is about a 17-year-old girl who’s forced into being the sole provider for her two younger siblings and sick mother after her father gets sent to prison for cooking up crack. Then one day Johnny Law tells her that her dad’s out of prison, that he offered up their house as collateral for his bond money, and if he doesn’t show up for his court hearing, the state takes the house and leaves her family to live out in the woods to probably die. So our girl Ree sets out on foot to every last terrifying hillbilly she’s related to (and there’s a lot of ’em) in the hopes to get some kind of answer as to where the hell her dad is before time runs out.

Until last week or so, I’d heard absolutely nothing about this movie, no trailers, no articles, no nothing. Then I caught wind of some utterly glowing reviews that made me feel like a jackass for being so out of the loop and finding out that it won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance a mere four months after the fact. See, this is why some kind gent out there needs to start paying me to do this before I end up stuck in Killers for all I know. It’s just no good the way things are now.

So dry your tears if you haven’t heard of it, we all have those moments, but now that you know, get the hell out there and see this.

It’s written and directed by one Debra Granik – a woman I didn’t even know existed – and make no mistake, she is the bomb.

Being from the suburbs of New York, I can’t exactly claim to know a whole lot about living in the backwoods of the Ozarks, but apparently the sun never, ever comes out, all the trees are deader than dead and not a single resident has running water in their Shantyville showers. Granted, it is Winter, but, boy, it must totally suck to live there. But there’s a strange beauty about it, the way she embraces wide open spaces that complement the dead seriousness of the story’s tone and the way it effects the locals is ever-present and something else. This could have easily been the most grim and depressing movie setting next to the The Road, but it’s not, instead it’s authentic, fitting and mighty, mighty impressive. I like that.

Also love that Granik’s characters come off as street smart and intimidating rather than the 21st Century homicidal redneck cast of Deliverance. These folks may not have the best oral hygiene or find themselves featured on MTV Cribs any time soon, but these people – banjo parties and all – are no freakin’ joke and are shadier than you can possibly imagine.

In a nutshell, Granik has put together one seriously gritty movie and it doesn’t take long to start marveling at her keen eye for the stark and ear for the raw.

See, kids, this is how you write, this is the most refreshing damn script I’ve come across in ages. It’s such a simple plot, such a simple premise, the first half-hour is more or less comprised of our 17-year-old protagonist making home visits, and it is a thing of beauty. It’s just so uncommon to find a script anymore that feels like a throwback, where the characters don’t mince words and each sentence is packed with more meaning than most writers can get down in a fucking soliloquy, and that’s just one of the many reasons why it stands out. There is just so much power behind the dialogue and silence that even the scrawniest of individuals feel like they could feed you to the hogs without batting an eye, and even though I don’t know why Garnik is one of the minorities who can actually pull this off, she does so with ease and I’m applaud her for it.

But the real driving force behind it all is newcomer Jennifer Lawrence as our protagonist, Ree. I don’t know where this girl came from, but if she doesn’t get nominated for an Oscar this year, I will be pissed, I will be livid, I will boycott those damn awards and go to bed at a reasonable hour for once. An incredibly well-written character to begin with, Lawrence has more inherent maturity, gravitas and steadfast confidence going for her than most actors who have been in the game since she was born. I’ve never come across a girl like Ree before – which is unfortunate – and she is in all honesty right up there with Sarah Connor as one of the great badass movie heroines.

There’s also a great performance by John Hawkes as Ree’s uncle, Teardrop. Only seen him before in Deadwood, Eastbound and Down and You, Me and Everyone We Know, but the guy made quite an impression and it’s about time he landed a kickass role like this. Really good actor, really good character, and it’s about damn time people started recognizing him.

Man, I haven’t gushed over a recent movie like this in a while. I don’t know how many theaters out there are playing this at the moment, but after drudging through six long months of effing horrendous offerings from Hollywood, it is so damn good to remember what it’s like to go to a movie, love the said movie and not feel robbed of 12 hard-earned dollars. Winter’s Bone might not be your thing if you’re itching to make some feel-good memories, but it was right up my alley and I really hope it takes off. But even if it doesn’t, seek it out. The pickin’s are awful slim, gang.

9/10 Backwoods Crack Fiends

To read more reviews from Aiden Redmond, also be sure to check out Cut The Crap Movie Reviews.