Running Time- 100 minutes
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, a number of local non-actors-until-now, backwoods America
Oscar gave it 4 noms- Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress (for Lawrence), and Best Supporting Actor (John Hawkes)
Tomatometer- Critics 95% Audiences 74% (the exact same as the Kids are All Right!)
This would be what I would call the last in the trilogy of the “little movies that caught the big attention” (Along with 127 Hours & TKAAR).
Winter’s Bone is the unsettling tale of Ree (Jennifer Lawrence), a young 17 year old, from backwoods America who is raising her 2 younger siblings and is supporting her depressed ill mother. Her father has been arrested for involvement with drugs and running meth labs. As the movie begins, we learn that he is out on bail- but the bail bond was paid by putting the family’s house and property on the line. The sheriff makes it clear that if their dad doesn’t show up for his court date which is only a few days away, they will lose everything. Determined Ree sets out to find her father no matter what so she can save the last threads of comfort her family has. She looks for him by talking to a number of different ‘family members’ who know something about her dad, but continue to tell her to “leave it alone, don’t ask, you don’t want to know”. This causes her to push further into her family’s dark story and what she learns is disturbing, and chilling… right to the bone.
It has that real ‘raw’ edge that I give a lot of respect to, but it doesn’t always engage me in what’s happening. It had a flavour of Fargo with it’s ‘backwoods characters’ mixed with a more serious realistic tone. It’s gritty, uses minimal music, and no flashy scenes- as a Millennial who relies on fast moving and attention grabbing moments, I struggled to keep engaged even though I cared about the characters. It is a ‘hillbilly redneck backwoods’ kind of movie without the over the top cheesiness– I believed in the ridiculousness that were these characters.
Jennifer Lawrence plays very well with the script- there is no fluff or polish to either her acting or the lines. So on the flip side to the film not engaging me as a watcher, I respect the bare(winter’s)bone approach to the film, which is why I believe it’s getting the attention. Lawrence is fully committed to the character and is very grounded in her values- family, responsibility, honesty and humility. John Hawkes plays her rough uncle Teardrop very similarity- he’s gritty, dirty and unkept. He plays his flawed character with such a realistic manner, that we could believe this is more a documentary than a fictional story.
As soon as the credits rolled, the person I was watching it started crying. I gave him a moment and he said “humanity is awful, I can’t believe we do this… We’re such animals”. He had an honest reaction and had something to talk about. Suddenly this movie was given a lot more credit in my books.
Winter’s Bone gets under your skin. Will it chill the Oscars enough for the win? I don’t think it’s had the audience (it’s final box office was just under 7 million, again another limited release picture). When it was out in theatres, I heard a bit about this film, but the hype isn’t seeming to maintain itself. I bought it on dvd in December because I remember thinking that this movie could be bigger than it seems to be. Lawrence and Hawkes have both won a few awards from ‘smaller’ awards circuits, so anything is possible. It’s bleak, but hopeful. Oscar likes hope.