Her family home in danger of being repossessed after her dad skips bail and disappears, Ozark teen Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) breaks the local code of conduct by confronting her kin about their conspiracy of silence. Should she fail to track her father down, Ree Dolly, her younger siblings, and their disabled mother will soon be rendered homeless.
There'd better be some Oscar nominations coming for this little gem.
SPOILER: "But I can't forever carry them kids and my mom, not without that house."
Winter's Bone is a stark, almost documentary-like movie about a poor teenage girl named Ree in the Ozarks who supports her near-catatonic mother and two younger siblings during her meth-cooking father's many brushes with the law. When he disappears before a court date and the family's home is at risk if he doesn't show up, Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) investigates amongst the locals to find out where he might be. But, some people don't like the questions she's asking, and her life may be at risk, along with her family home.
The plain, unobtrusive way that the camera observes events really helped draw me into the movie, to the point where I honestly forgot that I was watching a movie, at all. This effect was heightened by some excellent performances; especially from Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes (Teardrop). Lawrence had a star-making (and award worthy) performance, in my opinion. Ree is probably my favorite movie character of the year (well, perhaps next to Hit Girl), and Lawrence plays her with a realism and stubborn toughness that makes you believe that this seventeen year-old girl wouldn't wilt under the kind of circumstances that would overwhelm most adults. Her love for her family seems completely genuine, and there's never a word or a glance where she seems like she's "acting". It's all very natural, and I was beyond impressed.
The plot was quite tense and engrossing, as Ree pursues the mystery of where her father is with a dogged intensity, despite the fact that it leads her into some very dangerous (and violent) situations. The sparse, beautiful winter settings are a perfect backdrop for the story. It's been a while since I've seen a movie that does as good a job as this one in communicating a sense of place.
Winter's Bone may not be for everyone, though. There are no shoot-outs or florid romantic scenes. The moments of happiness are small, fleeting, and poignant; like a gift of generosity from a neighbor who knows you're in need, or the quiet assurances of an older sister to her younger siblings. In Winter's Bone, our world is never in danger...but one family's certainly is. I liked the movie the first time around, enjoyed it even more the second, and heartily recommend it if you're interested.
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