Monday, October 18, 2010

Review: Winter's Bone

Debra Granik's Winter's Bone is a creaky, noirish hero's quest set in the impoverished Ozarks in the brittle dead of winter. Ree Dolly, a 17-year-old girl with a steely gaze and a quick mind, is saddled with raising her younger brother and sister and caring for their catatonic mother in the wake of her absent, meth-cooking father. Ree teaches her siblings to cook, shoot, and other adult responsibilities, as if, even at these tender ages, they may have to suddenly fend for themselves. Their is a wary, knowing doom in Ree's eyes that is heartbreaking; no 17-year-old should possess this kind of foreboding wisdom, but for her it is a necessity.
A thick undercurrent of cold, stinging dread lies beneath every scene; as Ree searches for her father, who has skipped out on his court date after putting the family home up for bail, she comes up against a frozen wall of secrecy almost everywhere she turns. Through it all, Ree faces enemies, gains allies, and passes trials and tribulations.
I'll not end without discussing what everyone who's seen the film is talking about: young Jennifer Lawrence's topnotch performance as Ree. A less ballsy director than Granik would have cast a 20-something to play the teen, and it would not have worked; there is no one better, of any age. Lawrence inhabits the character so thoroughly that it is hard to imagine she is not naturally of the film's milieu.

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