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There'd better be some Oscar nominations coming for this little gem.
lewiskendell14 November 2010
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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Bread and Butter
ferguson-627 June 2010
Greetings again from the darkness. A double award winner at the Sundance Film Festival, this film is based on Daniel Woodrell's novel and is directed by Debra Granik. It's opening sequence slaps the viewer with the bleak unforgivingness of life in the backwoods of the Ozarks. This is land of people that time has passed by.

The basic premise of the story is that 17 year old Ree Dolly (played by Jennifer Lawrence) is responsible for raising her brother and sister and caring for her mentally-blank mother while maintaining a mostly positive outlook on the present and future. Reality strikes again when the local sheriff arrives to inform her that her missing, meth-lab running father has an upcoming court date. He used their land and house as collateral for his latest bond. If he fails to show, they will lose their home. Instead of breaking down, Ree pledges to find him and starts out on a hazardous journey, unlike we have seen on screen.

This community of mountain people are distrusting of outsiders, but stunningly, are just as paranoid around insiders and even family members. Their way of life seems to depend on pure independence, even though they all seemed intertwined in the same illegal activities and daily quest for survival. Some kind of odd code exists - ask nothing, give nothing and get rid of any obstacles.

The driving forces of the story are Ree and her constant hope and courage, and her bond to her dad's only brother, Teardrop played chillingly by John Hawkes. Teardrop tries to toughen up Ree and get her to accept her plight, while Ree constantly shows his there is reason to plow forward.

The film is very well written and the local filming brings a harsh reality that was crucial to the film's success. Additionally, I was stunned at the fierceness displayed by Jennifer Lawrence as Ree. Her performance reminded me of my first exposure to the talents of Meryl Streep (The Deer Hunter) and Evan Rachel Wood (Thirteen). Talk about powerful and exciting ... what she did with this role vaults her immediately into a very small group of actresses who can carry a movie with their presence. I am anxiously awaiting her next appearance - a Jody Foster project.

I also want to mention the music in the film. The vocalist, Marideth Sisco, is also the vocalist in the living room band who makes an appearance in one scene. Her voice truly captures the balance of hope and acceptance of plight. This is not a movie for everyone, but it is fascinating and hardcore.
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Haunting, Grim, but somehow Optimistic
Loving_Silence8 August 2010
Winter's Bone is about a 17 year old girl name Rolly Dee set out to find her father who put their house for his bailbond and then vanishes. If she doesn't find him, her family will be turned out to the Ozarks. Challenging her outlaw kin's code of silence and risking her life, Ree hacks through the lies, evasions and threats offered up by her relatives and begins to piece together the truth.

Let me, just begin by saying this movie is perfectly acted. Jennifer Lawrence gives an Oscar Worthy performance as Rolly Dee. I was surprised how excellent she was, because I was sceptical of her in the "The Bill Engvall" show. But she turned me to a believer and boy, she can REALLY act. Her performance actually surpasses some of Meryl Streep's performances. Hopefully the Academy will recognize her and give an Oscar nomination or maybe even a win! The film is well directed by Debra Granik and is easily her best work yet. She definitely has potential to become the "new" Kathryn Bigelow. Anyways the film is really bleak and powerful, but it still has a tone of hopeful in it. Very interesting and mesmerizing movie to watch. It is a bit slow at times, but trust me it never gets boring or dull.

10/10 Highly recommended.
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I LIVED it. Reality of life in the hills
hillbillyloren23 September 2010
Great Movie!! I was raised in the Missouri Ozarks area where the film was set and filmed. This is the part of the US that loves Sara Palin, Rush Limbaugh (who is from Missouri) and voted for GW Bush twice. I have to say that the film was amazingly "true to life" in every detail. I would also like to say that you don't have to be desperately hungry to hunt and eat squirrels either. It is considered very good food in the hills. I have eaten it many times and it is delicious when cooked correctly.

I have been dismayed reading many of these reviews calling it a "fake" and/or "phony" and contrived film. I do understand that the character of Ree Dolly certainly has many wonderful and admirable qualities that seem to have developed in a vacuum. Ree Dolly needs to be that sort of character for the rest of the film to work and not simply be a documentary of the endless poverty endured in the Ozarks for generation after generation. I grew up EXACTLY in that part of Missouri and Ree's character aside,,, it is EXACTLY correct in the look, the language and the behaviors there. I have a video of the beauty and poverty there at or a longer version at

I would also like to address the Meth Epidemic that has raced across huge sections of the rural Midwest America. I was raised in the Ozarks from 1963 until 2009 and I watched the moonshiners lose out as Sunday Blue Laws and Dry County Laws were voted down or abandoned. Then marijuana became THE big cash crop that survived and thrived for many years until "Daddy" Bush's anti-marihuana laws poured in tons of money to local law enforcement and new laws confiscating lands forced the richer growers indoors. It was finally in the mid 1990s when you began to see meth force out ALL the remaining marihuana farmers and moonshiners. Counties began to get in meth dealing Sheriffs and the old games were OVER. In my Ozark County (Morgan) during the late 1990s a deputy sheriff's home mysteriously exploded and then was investigated by the FBI. I watched as the marijuana become hard to find and evil Meth take over.

The people of the Ozarks have always been clannish, hostile to outsiders and proudfully ignorant and primitive in their opinions of society and politics. Those traits are nothing new or something that manifested due to Meth. But the introduction of Meth has struck down many good men and women who might have made the culture a tiny bit more tolerant or hopeful.

But along with the continuing devastation of multi generational poverty and vastly inferior schools there is also a great beauty in the land and the people of the region. Many an unbelievably gifted musician lived and died in those hills never having recognition from anyone outside of the hills.

I strongly urge everyone to watch this movie because it is VERY truthful and realistic of how parts of the US survive. It also shows a part of America that is VERY often overlooked because many are (rightfully) ashamed that this sort of 3rd world poverty exits in the US. I personally feel that the Federal US government needs to inject a LOT more funding and oversight of the rural school districts in order to overcome the generations of prideful ignorance that governs the mindset of many born into that rural America culture.
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A rich, satisfying film
howard.schumann27 June 2010
It is quite astonishing what people are capable of when their survival or way of life is threatened. In those moments, they are somehow able to employ a level of courage, perseverance, and high intention that they never knew they had. Such is the case for young Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) in Debra Granik's The Winter's Bone, winner of the Jury Prize for dramatic competition as well as the Waldo Salt Screen writing Award at the Sundance Film Festival. Newcomer Lawrence, a Kentucky native, is completely convincing as the 17-year-old Ree who has endured much in her brief lifetime and has plenty of obstacles yet to overcome. Living in poverty in a small house in the rural Missouri Ozarks, near the Arkansas border, she has to cook, chop wood and do whatever is necessary to care for her twelve-year old brother Sonny (Isaiah Stone) and her six-year old sister Ashlee (Ashlee Thompson) as well as look after her mother who is catatonic.

Based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell and co-written by Granik and Anne Rosellini, The Winter's Bone depicts how young Ree's life is changed when the local sheriff informs her that her dad, Jessup, on the run after being arrested for "cooking" methamphetamines, has put the family's house up as bond and that, unless he is found and convinced to turn himself in, Ree's family will lose their house. Insisting to the sheriff that she will find him, the young girl begins a search among friends, family members, distant relatives, and the community of small-time crooks, dope dealers, and kingpins that dominate the male-dominated rural society. No one wants to talk and Ree is met with silence, hostility, and even violence. One neighbor tells her that her questioning is, "a real good way to end up et by hogs." When someone asks her, "Ain't you got no men folk to do this?" the answer is an emphatic "no." (at times, the film seems to be challenging Juno for the most quirky one-liners).

Ree's main antagonists are her father's terrifying older brother Teardrop, played by John Hawkes, and Merab (Dale Dickey), the wife of Thump Milton, one of the local bosses. The performance by Dickey conveys an overbearing sense of intimidation that is both real and frightening. As Ree navigates through this hostile environment, we grow to admire her determination and her willingness to confront danger in order to protect her siblings. Winter's Bone is a film about poverty and desperation but it never exploits its characters or engages in manipulation or sentimentality. Though it can be hard to watch at times, it is not as some critics have said "poverty porn." There are lighter moments as well that include authentic Ozark folk music sung by Marideth Sisco and scenes of Ree teaching her brother and sister to spell, count, and perhaps more important for survival, how to shoot a rifle. She also tells her younger brother about the culture in which they live saying "Never ask for what ought to be offered."

Though I was riveted by the unfolding story, perhaps because of the film's high degree of stylization, I stopped short of full emotional involvement and was often conscious of the fact that I was watching a movie. Yet The Winter's Bone is a rich, satisfying film that more than deserves the accolades it has been receiving. Though it is stylized, it has an authenticity derived from using local residents as actors and from the director having immersed herself in the culture for two years before shooting the film. Jennifer Lawrence conveys a stoic and hard-edged individual, yet one with integrity who has somehow avoided getting sucked into the soul destructive way of life that seems to be endemic to the area. In Ree, Granik has created one of the strongest female characters in cinema in memory, one who, by her sheer will, suggests what could be accomplished if all of us could live each day as if our life depended on it.
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An engrossing slice of backwoods American life
Miakmynov20 June 2010
Just back from seeing this at the Edinburgh Film Festival, and at the Q&A afterwards, the director, Debra Granik (refreshingly eloquent and well beyond the usual wanting to thank the world and his wife for being here at EIFF) described her film's subject matter as 'hard scrabble'. Although she wasn't referring to a Russian Roulette version of the popular literacy board game (now there's an idea for a film...), it was an evocative description of the tough slice of backwater American life served up here. The basic storyline – a teenagers plight to save her dependent family from imminent homelessness because of the actions of an errant and now-absent father – felt both authentic and compelling, as did the way the local community closed in around her, meting out both violence and support in equal measure.

Using grey and oppressive colour tones, the entire film is shot in a bleak wooded landscape, where the grizzle-bearded men all look like they've just left the set of 'Southern Comfort', and the straggle-haired, world-weary lined faces of the women add to the unspoken sense of the harsh reality of life here. I doubt they see many tourists in this neck of the woods, and at the same time, the film steers well clear of the 'and if they did, they'd probably eat them' stereotype. I liked the sparse and effective use of bluegrass-folky-type music, which cut through, and gave some relief to, an otherwise fairly unremitting sense of hopelessness.

Although the subject matter is an uncompromising reality-check to much of the superficial Hollywood drivel that fills our multiplexes, this is not a hard watch. At its' heart, it's a good story, well-told, with excellent central performances (particularly John Hawkes and Jennifer Lawrence) and an open-hearted sense of the local community here, in spite of their bread-line existence. 7/10.
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Oscar material
trescher15 April 2010
This is an excellent film, the casting was perfect and, filmed on location in the Ozarks, it's depiction of poor rural mountain life in the South was thoroughly authentic. In another generation, it was moonshine that put these people on the wrong side of the law. Today, it's methamphetamine and OxyContin. As the plot moves forward through this drug subculture, the pride, family loyalty, code of honor and toughness of the people are revealed. Three performances stand out. Jennifer Lawrence never hits a false note as Ree Dolly, the 17 year-old protagonist who takes care of her little brother and sister and her mentally disabled mother. She learns that her father, who cooks methamphetamine, had been arrested and put up their house and land for bail bond. If he doesn't show up for court, they will lose their house, and she must find him. John Hawkes, cast as her uncle, Teardrop, quietly develops his character from someone who is initially menacing and untrustworthy into a man you can faintly admire. And Dale Dickey, as Merab, manages to convey a woman who is tough, mean, capable of violence, yet also honest and reluctantly sympathetic to Ree.
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Neo noir, with a twist of white trash.
shreke20031 February 2010
This shockingly diverse film offers numerous delights to the viewer. Beginning with simple title credits, and ending in a beautiful display of foliage. Winter's Bone will grab your attention and never let go.

Based on a novel of the same name, it's the story of a seventeen year old girl who is searching for her missing father. Sound like something you've seen before? Well it's not! The basic premise surrounds itself with remarkably new idea's and situation's. A feeling of noir envelopes the screen and each character and action leads you on a most enjoyable journey. The Actor's and more importantly Actress, are dug so deep into their characters that there isn't a single fake second.

Debra Granik does an amazing job in the director/screenwriter role. Her vision entangles the story together and propels it forward to the unforgettable climax. The world that is shown through this film is one i was unfamiliar with, but after seeing it all i can think about is the life those characters lead. And how different it is from my own.

A film that deserved the grand jury award at Sundance and one which I plan to see again. Winter's Bone is a film for everyone, be you young, old, or in the middle. Just walk into the cinema with an empty plate and you will leave filled.
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Brilliant Genre Bender and Thematic Cauldron
dalefried25 September 2010
Watching this film the first time you will see one of the most accessible, compelling, and almost entirely straight narrative films this year. As a film snob, I tend to like them more visually challenging and time bending. Nonetheless, I was entirely blown away in my first viewing and simply could not get this movie out of my mind for the rest of the film festival I was attending.

In quiet repose, the vapor trails coalesce around two things when you try to explain Winter's Bone to others. From the view of genre it goes everywhere: mystery, noir in gray tones, gangster, thriller, almost horror and a brilliant, stark family drama. Then there are the themes that rage quietly behind the scenes: hopelessness in poverty, good transcending almost demonic evil, an unbridled feminist treatise, nobility free poverty, drug culture ripping social fabric asunder, and family is your trump card for everything.

This really grasps you like a whirling dervish in a cauldron, so powerful it takes your thoughts so many places so quickly.

The source of all this is a startling story and screen rendering by one who may become a great young female director. The performances, likely coaxed by this great director, stun you silent.

Plus it contains possibly the greatest role model for the young ever put on film, performed in true star making brilliance if seen beyond the art houses where characters like me reside.

In the end, after five viewings, it stands as my favorite film seen since American Beauty, therefore placing it in my favorite ten all-time. Please see this before it shocks you when its name appears on year end awards lists.
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Shades of Deliverance, deja vu
bobbobwhite21 June 2010
This film tells the sad story of inbred, poverty-stricken, Missouri Ozark hillbillies trying to scratch out a living on poor soil and even worse personal resources, so it was no wonder meth production was embraced as a life-changing profit center that had the illegal potential to change their lives for the better. Their poor lives before meth had a certain dignity in the hard struggle for survival in an uncaring world that had passed them by or never allowed them to catch up, either or both, but cheap and dangerous drug production leading to fast but risky money took these unfortunates down a road that surely few would have chosen if they had a chance beforehand to see any of the personal and social harm it created in a society already at great risk of decent survival. What great harm it did was shown and acted brilliantly, as it pushed these already at-risk people lower down the chain of life than before and surely even lower than the wild animals they had to kill for food.

A young girl of 17, seeming older than her years, beaten up and beaten down, wary of those around her but needing their help, and with 2 young siblings and a helpless mother to care for, she learned that her drug-making, drugged-out father disappeared and missed a court date for a drug arrest, and the most important task of her life then became finding her father before they lost their meager home to bondsmen, as that sorry home place was all they had in the world but it was home and she intended with all her heart and soul to do whatever it took to keep it and her family together. The acting throughout was appropriately serious to deadly, with hardly even a smile to be seen, and left us thankful as seldom before for whatever our own lives give us compared to those in the story.

Such a grim and foreboding task the daughter had, with imminent harm threatening around every corner she turned and behind every door on which she knocked, even those of relatives. Determination can get you far, but only so far unless you get a few breaks, and that long quest for a decent break was what kept viewer's eyes glued to the screen until it all played out in the end as could be expected in that dire situation.

Bleak, stark, harsh, mean, cruel...all those tough adjectives were present in full force throughout her search, but present also was her eternal fire of human spirit and family duty that would never quit. When actual survival is at stake, this story showed well that some of us truly can find the right stuff to survive when no better choices are possible.
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Outstanding, if you like ultra-realism
Bob-457 January 2013
While I have seen many more entertaining film and certainly more profound, I cannot remember the last time I saw a film so realistic I felt I was there.

The very realism of "Winter's Bone" undercuts its pacing and dramatic impact. The film opens slowly and my wife nearly lost interest before the story engrossed her. Perhaps given my "country cousin" roots, I was immediately taken in. As a writer I was astounded at how many times I could not predict what would happen next. Yet, every scene flows naturally into the next.

While I found some of the dialog unintelligible, the "natural sound" so accentuated the film's atmosphere I didn't care. Certainly, I had no trouble understanding all the necessary interchanges.

While all performances are "pitch perfect," Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes certainly deserved their Oscar nominations and numerous awards. Likewise, writer/director deserved her Oscar nomination for writing. She should have received one for directing. In any event, she is one to watch and, in my opinion, a much better director than Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow.

There are no really "big" messages here. Nonetheless the "small" messages of humanity,community and personal honor shine like a beacon. I give "Winter's Bone" a "10".
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a merging of film-noir and neo-realism, with a big dosage of "white trash" in America
Quinoa198414 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Debra Granik doesn't compromise in Winter's Bone. Not for a moment does she let a character get an easy way out. Even by the story's end, when things seem to at least be stable and at peace, things are not entirely happy. How could they be? The story is set in rural Missouri, where at best people have a working car, and at worst, you see that burnt down Crystal-Meth house over yonder. What is so absorbing in Granik's film is not just the main character, the one character we have to stick with in order to navigate the dangerous and ugly backwoods folk (sort of a Redneck Mafia if you will), but the locations. A good lot of time is given to these winter locations, where broken down tractors, shooting squirrels, and mountain music performed in living rooms are common, not to mention the Meth cooked up every which way. We're transported to a place that many of us (i.e those of us who live in suburbs and cities) wouldn't want to go near. And yet, this is America, where good people have to struggle and the bad thrive on fear.

The story is something out of a 'noir' story: a 17 year old girl (Jennifer Lawrence in her breakout performance) is told by the local Sheriff (Garrett Dillahunt, who previously played 'the law' in No Country for Old Men) that her father is wanted, but also put up the house and assets for collateral, and that if he doesn't show- in one way or another, live or dead- the house will be taken away. Ree's mother is in a daze on medication, and she has two little siblings she has to take care of, so starts a search for her father. Nobody wants to help her really; her most sympathetic ally is her uncle, who doesn't know where his brother is, and doesn't much care (there's a great exchange at one point between the two: "You know, you've always scared me." "That's because you're smart," he says, eyes turned down), but everyone else is abrasive, and could at best care less and at worse tell her to get off the property... or else.

There's a pervading feeling of something really, really bad going on, which Ree can only slightly comprehend. She is smart, and resourceful, and teaches her little brother and sister to shoot, if nothing else for protection (that's the subtext anyway in shooting squirrels), but she's also not wanted, certainly not by the locals who she should count on but look at her, as Jessup Dolly's daughter, as a threat. More is revealed about what happened to him, and the sense of terror is really way up by the third act. Who knows what will happen to Ree or the kids, especially if Jessup isn't found, in one way or another. The discovery of Jessup, as the climax of the picture, is filmed in such a way that it is truly gruesome; I can't reveal it here, but it outranks most horror movies that only come close to the personal terror that is felt by the discovery.

Winter's Bone is bleak but not so much so that we leave the theater in all tears or total dread. There's some little moments of hope for Ruby and her siblings, and while her conflict with Thump Milton and his clan (aka Redneck Mob) leaves her scarred and more on her guard, and she knows to definitely never trust that Sheriff again, what makes it worthwhile is surviving the quest of it, the mystery. Nothing feels fabricated in the film- many of the actors come right from the region and are non-professionals- and this is reflected in the material. And for such a hard story, of a girl on her own with little resources and backup, there's some great talent here. Lawrence, as noted, should become very hot (that is a talent-to-see on the radar) from this film, where her Ree is the hero in more ways than one, but from her strength shows her vulnerability from time to time very well (there's a scene where she brings her mother out into the woods to ask her what she should do, tears in her eyes, and I couldn't recall a scene quite as powerful as it since Nicholson's Bobby Dupea had a similar scene in Five Easy Pieces).

The other actor who really shines here is John Hawkes. We've seen him in character parts from time to time (I first saw him in From Dusk till Dawn as a store clerk), and his character is given the most complexity of anyone. While it's arguable that Ree and the other backwoods folk are black-and-white in their morality (even when a woman character finally comes to help Ree in the third act it's by a lot of conditions- the aforementioned 'gruesome' scene), Teardrop is an unabashed drug addict and will most likely kill if he has to. But he's also compassionate in ways that matter, and Hawkes shows this gray area of the character with depth and wisdom; he doesn't make this guy a total hick (matter of fact no one in the movie is too over-the-top, just believable enough without being like 'Deliverance), but a torn man who has no real future but can be of help to Ree in this time of need. And he also gets an exceptional showdown scene with the Sheriff while in the front seat of his car that is among the best scenes this year in film.

This is the indie film that people love to talk about, the 'go see this' wonder that will probably barely play 100 or at most 200 screens, but lights up with drama and consequence more than most films you'll ever see. Or, to put it another way, it's what Sundance is good for: shining light on real independent product that is about something, or someone, and isn't tethered by Hollywood conventions.
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A plodding bore
CineCritic251710 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
A girl is searching for her presumably dead father in order to prevent her house from being seized by a bondsman. The father turned out to be murdered in a community effort to prevent him from talking to the police about the neighborhood's little drug operation. The claustrophobic atmosphere in the film is accompanied by dry local dialog which won't exactly make you spin in your seat. By the time the film is over, you have gained nothing in terms of entertainment or a better understanding of what the hell it is that makes these people tick. The film just kind of drags on for 100 minutes and then ends. It's not a poorly made film by any means, it just begs the question why anyone would bother to create it in the first place.
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Winter's Bored
Meven_Stoffat28 March 2011
OK, starting off, you see my star rating for this movie? That rating means I thought this movie has a few good points and, *gasp!*, a good deal of bad points. And I'm not a cinema elitist who disregards every blockbuster ever made and thinks every indier-than-thou flick is by default great. I rate films out of honesty, and this is what I honestly think of Winter's Bone.

First off I can't deny this film is gorgeously shot. There's some great and nifty camera work in the movie and the scenery is just pure eye candy. I loved the opening shots and ominous, dark tone... and then the characters started talking. Seriously, the dialogue is so overblown and tacky. I was laughing at pretty much 80% of the lines spoken in the film. How this was up for Best Screenplay is against me.

What very little plot there is relies on the protagonist being ten times as stupid as the characters in most movies today. It's about a girl at risk of losing her home searching for her father. What feels like an hour of the film is devoted to silent footage of the protagonist walking through the woods. If you cut half of the "walking through the woods" out, the movie would be an hour long. And again, there was a lot of buildup but NO ENDING... it just ends.

The actors do a pretty good job given the script, but this film is a massive bore. I don't even think hobos with shotguns could save this film. I honestly don't get all the praise this gets.
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Very, very good film. Almost excellent.
lunchboxwanderer23 June 2013
'Winter's Bone' is a nuanced and excellently constructed film.

The characters are portrayed brilliantly by the this fine cast of actors. The roles are played so well that the word "believable" would be a gross understatement.

The lead, Jennifer Lawrence, has an extremely bright future. I see why she got the lead in The Hunger Games' and 'Silver Linings Playbook.' This young lady has at least one Academy Award in the near term.

John Hawkes nailed his role. However, his acting is so consistent it's almost become under appreciated. He needs some bigger roles, he can carry a film.

The directing was almost perfect. There were a couple of lulls, but in a way, they added to the suspense.

What I really appreciate about the directing though is the actors were allowed to act.

The scenes, through effective dialogue (no unnecessary banter), facial expressions and background were left to speak for themselves.

The film had a quality that rewarded the viewer if the requisite attention to detail was paid.

That said, for me it became exponentially more rewarding.

I could go on and on, but if you haven't seen this film, do so.

It's high quality, an oasis in the Hollywood desert.

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Immensely overrated; a complete waste of time
jburtroald9517 December 2010
A young girl living firmly cemented in a cutthroat poverty-stricken town atop the Ozark Mountain has had to fend for herself and look after her heavily dependent younger siblings ever since her mother had fallen to several severe drug addictions. She now finds herself having to search for her elusive drug-dealing fugitive of a father for official reasons to prevent the loss of their home: a task that requires her to dangerously rock the boat, as the people with the information seem to want nothing to do with her.

Outlined to the ears of different people, the plot line of this film may be perceived as anything from basic to fascinating, but in cinema judgements of a storyline's promise is ultimately meaningless as in the end a film's overall content will be turned into either gold or trash by the team attached to the project. Unfortunately in Winter's Bone the incompetent director Debra Granik together with her miserably mundane cast headed by Jennifer Lawrence (a wooden heroine), John Hawkes (a drab evil uncle) and Valerie Richards (a loathsome Texan stereotype) have neglected to put any life, heart of poignancy into the material. The end result is a bland, flat smattering of ghastly people doing ghastly things in ghastly surroundings, all of which stop it from ever connecting with its audience.

However, because its content is ghastly and not simply boring, it is likely that this would-be flop is going to be critically lauded and publicly respected, with its defiant haters being labelled as sad little wimps who cannot accept reality. The fact is that pure, unpolished reality doesn't always fulfil the needs of a good feature film; when left untouched it often makes for a movie that lacks creativity, originality, intrigue or merit which is the case here. The best that can be said for this pitiful wreck is that it is not always a complete bore, the protagonist displays some interesting qualities towards the end and Raising Hope's Garret Dillahaunt makes an appearance, which isn't much.
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Low-key, slow-burning noirish thriller with strong performances and powerful scenes.
barnabyrudge27 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Mainstream Hollywood of late seems to have gone down the route of big spectacular action films, broad mass-appeal comedies, sci-fi blockbusters and soulless remakes of older (and better) films. Those of us yearning for more low-key and character driven films – let's call them slow burners with a degree of artistry – must look to the indepedents for our kicks. Winter's Bone was one of the leading independent films of 2010. The critics showered it with accolades and awards, while small pockets of the public championed it as a understated masterpiece. I don't quite find it the amazing, life-changing experience that it has been hailed as in some quarters… but on the whole I'd say Winter's Bone is a unique, original, well-made and frequently riveting "country noir".

In the Ozark Mountains, the Dolly family – 17 year old Ree (Jennifer Lawrence), her younger brother and sister, and their mentally incapacitated mother – receive word that they may be about to lose their home. The absentee father, Jessop Dolly, has put up the family home as a bail bond to guarantee his appearance at a court hearing… if he fails to turn up, the house will be taken from them. Ree desperately tries to locate her father… but she is just a young girl treading through a close-knit community where men and elders call the shots, and the intrusions of a kid – a female at that – are not deemed acceptable. Aided by her edgy and dangerous uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes), Ree presses ahead with her search and enrages other members of the family who are determined to keep Jessop's affairs – and, indeed, his fate – a secret.

Winter's Bone is perhaps most effective for its sense of authenticity – the ramshackle houses, the perpetually secretive and suspicious characters, the harsh living conditions and the extreme measures required to eke out an existence in the Ozarks, are all captured very convincingly. The scene where Ree teaches her younger siblings how to kill, skin and cook a squirrel would come across as gross and exploitative in most other films, but here it's done with a sense of detached matter-of-factness which beautifully complements the film's authenticity. The performances by the largely unknown cast are uniformly excellent, especially Lawrence as the resourceful girl who breaks every established code of her people to do what's best for her family. There are moments where the dialogue is rather unclear and others where the narrative builds to a head but then stubbornly refuses to provide a pay-off. However for most of its duration Winter's Bone is a very sure-footed and intriguing film which rises to some particularly memorable moments.
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Adheres too rigidly to the indie formula
tieman6414 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
More poverty porn from Sundance and the indie film circuit, a trend which started with David Green's "George Washington" (though some cite Harmony Korine's "Gummo"), reached its peak with "Shotgun Stories" and seems to be fizzling to a conclusion with "Winter's Bone".

Typically, all these films belong to the Southern Gothic genre, involve semi mythic story lines, Grecian family tragedies, take place in poverty stricken areas, involve rednecks or poor characters and hinge around the promise of some third act moment of violence. In other words, these films are all designed around their budgets: how to make cheap, dramatic films which take place in environments sufficiently alien to affluent white audiences and appealing to left leaning American critics. "Alternative film" has become as formulaic as the stuff it pretends not to be.

Which is not to say that "Winter's Bone" is a bad film – I'll take it over any other Hollywood mega-production currently in cinemas – but one can't escape how drearily formulaic indie cinema has become. That the only way for budding directors to guarantee critical success, let alone distribution, is to hop on board the indie conveyor belt. Now every major studio seems to be courting these films, releasing redneck flicks like "Hounddog", "Undertow", "In The Electric Mist", and "Black Snake Moan" (and similar fare like "Precious", "Ballast", "Sherrybaby", "Million Dollar Baby", "Napoleon Dynamite" and "Slumdog Millionaire").

All these films serve the same purpose as such reality TV shows as "Wife Swap" or "How Clean Is Your House", the horrified bourgeois gazing at the undisciplined classes, the films fetishizing hick culture, their cameras dwelling on rust, junk, derelict vehicles, poor kids, catatonic women, grime, poverty and destitution in a world populated by bearded, gun toting mountain men. Every year, Sundance serves up the same thing.

The irony is, all these "Southern Gothic indie films" have their roots in those affluence-centric films of the 90s ("The Ice Storm", "American Beauty" and more recently "Revolutionary Road" and "Little Children"). Indie cinema used to be all about rich people moping about, then killing somebody. Now it's the same trend: only with supremely poor people instead (examining what caused this shift will take an essay in itself).

But unlike the films of the British and French new wave or the Italian neorealist movement, no attempt is ever made to explore the worlds or social context of these poor characters. This is British "kitchen sink" drama of the 60s stripped of everything but the aesthetics of grime. Critics bought this when Green's grungy "George Washington" was released, but time – and Green's subsequent output, which demonstrated him to be completely without a world-view – has revealed the entire genre to be vapid. This is grime as an aesthetic choice and story as nothing but a skeleton upon which to hang the filth. Wow them with poverty porn and then cash in, a career trajectory which Green and every successful modern indie director exemplifies (Green's last film was "Pineapple Express").

In terms of plot, "Winter's Bone" is a Southern Gothic thriller which revolves around 17 year old Ree Dolly's search for her methamphetamine-cooking father, Jessup. Jessup has disappeared, failing to show up for a court case, and so unless Ree finds him, the family home will be repossessed.

Ree thus becomes a private investigator of sorts, bouncing from location to location, all in the search of her father. She confronts family members and inbred cousins, who live scattered amongst barns and cabins in the hills. We're treated to banjos, gutted squirrels, dilapidated homes, leaking pipes and an assortment of hicks, Ree given the cold shoulder by most. "Don't you have any men folk to do this?" one of them asks. "No," comes Ree's curt reply.

At its best, "Winter's Bones" is the slick love child of "Deliverance" (why are hillbillies always shown to be clannish, violent, territorial and vengeful people?) and "Little Red Riding Hood", a coming of age fairy tale in which little Ree navigates the evil forest all on her lonesome, bravely doing what must be done to keep her family together (her mom is catatonic and she has 2 little siblings). There exists also a slight feminist undercurrent: women are partially to blame, director Debra Granik says, for not challenging the status quo.

At its worst, however, "Winter's Bone" is as mechanical, cold, hollow and cynically calculated as a summer blockbuster, Sundance and the indie circuit churning out - or aggressively marketing - the same "prestige fare" for the past 9 years. And like all these films, it owes its style entirely to David Green.

Green's first feature was made after Terrence Malick (a fellow Texan) released "The Thin Red Line", a film which Green cites as a huge influence on his own aesthetic style. When Green made "George Washington", he opened the door for virtually every Southern Gothic director copying this "new Terrence Malick" style and applying it to their own low budget thrillers. What is this "new Malick" style? It's essentially Malick's usual aesthetic (fluid shots, ethereal music, elliptical, non-linear editing etc), only now shots of nature are replaced with rusty, dilapidated environments whilst moody shots of contemplative characters are replaced with brooding hillbillies, poor people, kids and idiots. Essentially, Malick's highbrow style added instant "street cred" to both low budget indie flicks, and a sub-genre that was getting increasingly stupid and exploitative.

7.9/10 - Why is Bree an anomaly in her own environment? Given her circumstances and upbringing, why is she a figure of such grace, beauty, integrity and self-sufficiency? While the best noirs use the genre to paint a picture of the society in which they take place, this film makes no attempt to flesh Bree, or any character, out. Instead, Bree functions solely as an audience surrogate, taking us window shopping through a grotesque carnival of freaks and oddballs. We stare, they menace us from their cages, and we go on home.
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The must-see movie of 2010
Red-12520 July 2010
Winter's Bone (2010), co-written and directed by Debra Granik, is this year's must-see movie. Jennifer Lawrence plays Ree Dolly, a young woman who has had to grow up fast. She has two younger siblings to care for. Her father is missing, and her mother is an invalid. Ree is keeping the family together in their home in a remote corner of the Missouri Ozarks.

When the film opens, the key plot points are set out for Ree and for us. Her father was arrested, and then released on bail. He's put up the family's house and land in order to obtain his release. Now that he's gone, the house and land will belong to the bond company. Realistically, Ree has to find him or the family will be destroyed.

Into the mix comes Ree's uncle, called Teardrop, portrayed by John Hawkes. He has a frightening presence. Everyone respects the potential for deadly violence that Teardrop represents--the local sheriff, Ree, and the hard-bitten meth producers who inhabit the region.

This is a film that is better seen than described in a review. The acting is incredible without exception, but Lawrence and Hawkes are extraordinary. We saw this film at the Rochester 360-365 Film Festival, but it's now in commercial release. It's a tense, taut movie that takes place in small, tight places, even when the scene is shot outdoors, so it will work on DVD.

Seek it out and see it!
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Brilliantly-acted, psychologically authentic, socially perceptive, and engrossing
mistabobdobolina14 December 2012
Warning: Spoilers
So, by now, Winter's Bone has been through the usual waves of reaction to any promising low-budget indie film. First the positive responses from critics at Cannes; then the wave of faux-contrarians who automatically dislike a thing because it is liked by critics at Cannes; well-heeled upper middle class bounders denouncing it for supposedly being "poverty porn" (really just denouncing the audacity of showing poor people of any kind on a movie screen, which apparently is just gauche); people denouncing it for not matching their memory of growing up (because apparently the Ozarks are unchanging, eternal and completely uniform); and various other forms of bullsh*tting and nit-pickery.

On balance, though, it seems to have survived the inevitable avalanche of nonsense and emerged from it with recognition as an extraordinary, and immensely courageous, piece of filmmaking. Which, indeed, it is.

The backdrop of Rhee Dolly's story is a rural America ravaged by the global economy, in which cooking meth or "crank" has become the entire economic engine of entire towns. This is a kind of story -- and Rhee Dolly's immediate environs the kind of neighbourhood -- familiar from across the globe in the past forty years, replicated in place after place with faces of every hue and in settings from urban ghetto to the back-est of backwoods. There's a reality, an immediacy, and (if one hasn't led too sheltered a life) an authenticity to the characters we meet in Winter's Bone: anyone familiar with impoverished and ravaged places has met and known many people not unlike this.

But that's not to say they don't have their particular culture that sets them unmistakably in their own time and place: sternly patriarchal, a weird mixture of formally hospitable and deeply paranoid (even around insiders and family), populated by largely shiftless men and tough, wary women who forge their own fatalistic, thread-bare mutual-aid networks. The omerta-style code that flourishes anywhere that people are driven to the illegal economy for their livelihood is visible here, almost suffocating, presided over by local boss Thump Milton... and it profoundly shapes people's reactions to Rhee, who's distrusted by association with a father whom (we later learn) had broken it. The power of that code is vividly portrayed in Rhee herself, who adheres fiercely to it despite rejecting (for herself) other aspects of her father's lifestyle, and whose reaction on learning that her further was murdered for his weakness is not vengeful rage at his killers, but shame on behalf of her father. This is a psychologically realistic and admirably unflinching depiction of how insidiously omerta/no-snitches codes can work in real life.

The performances are spare and intense, the cast and costumes look authentic to rural America (not prettified and gentrified as would be the normal Hollywood reflex) and there's a clear sense of a lot going on outside the frame. Winter's Bone isn't obsessed with the grotesquerie of addiction, which is hinted at but not seen much in the foreground. It isn't obsessed with other familiar southern Gothic grotesqueries either, though Rhee's fiery rejection of a cousin's proposal to take her brother in (owing to their impending eviction by the bondsman) certainly seems like she's reacting to a proposition from a child-molester (heavily hinted also in her later, bitter acknowledgment that these same cousins don't want to take her sister in because "she don't shine for them"). It is in main the story of Rhee's perseverance -- both through strength of character and desperation -- in the cracks of the meth business and in the face of a visibly broken community and society; not a treacly story about the "triumph of the human spirit," but a hardscrabble story about real survival and all the secrets, hypocrisies and untold violences that can come with it.

There are some truly incredible standout performances here: especially Jennifer Lawrence as Rhee -- and really the whole cast of women from the crank-cooking hamlet she's trapped in -- and from John Hawkes (whom you may remember as the mild-mannered Sol Starr in Deadwood) who is extraordinarily transformed into the manically intense loose cannon Teardrop. And for visceral emotional horror, I've seen few scenes that could compete with Rhee's discovery of her father's final resting place and the soul-wrenching salvation it offers.

It's a slower and less polished style of film than your average Hollywood output, but it's gripping, authentic, unflinching and well worth a watch. And a few re-watches too.
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Not entertaining
Sohcahtoa248176 February 2011
It doesn't surprise me that this movie is popular with critics and award shows. The acting is definitely very real and well done. However, it is a depressing movie. You will take nothing away from it but a yucky gut feeling. If you actually want to be entertained or moved by a movie, I wouldn't pick this one. If you want insight into poverty, suffering, beating, drugs, alcohol and crime then you will like this movie. For me? I'll pass. We have enough useless bad news to deal with in real life without adding this horribly depressive movie. The stages where the main actor searches for answers drags on and made me sleepy. The ending for sure caught my attention, but not in a good way. Wish I never ordered it.
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Expertly scripted, and directed. Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes are spectacular.
Ryan_MYeah5 November 2010
Today I finally got to see Winter's Bone, a rather small, but highly respected festival film based on the book by Daniel Woodrell. And first off, there's a reason the film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, it's because the film is astounding.

The film features newcomer Jennifer Lawrence in the role of young Ree, a 17 year old girl raising her young brother, and sister, and caring for her sick mother. A town sheriff comes to their house and informs her that her missing, drug dealing father has a court date, and that if he doesn't show, the house will be taken as bail bond. Seeking help from several people (though most of them just want to keep her father's disappearance a secret), she hacks through the dangerous Ozark terrain to locate her father.

I want to applaud director Debra Granik, whose directs a subtly crafted piece of work, a dark character study of perseverance, and secrecy, and manages a consistently dark tone. At times, her and her co-writer Anne Rosellini's script can threaten to feel repetitious, but they have other plans in mind for this movie. It does feel slow occasionally, but it's also tastefully handled, and the character development feels absolutely right.

Most of the cast of the movie don't play particularly huge parts, but every last cast member is extraordinary, and none of them feel underused, or overused. Obviously, most of the focus is on young Lawrence, in a nuanced, but rather intense performance. She performs the role with solid conviction, and gets lost in it, making it feel completely authentic. Not to be outdone is John Hawkes, who plays Ree's uncle, who starts out rather tight-lipped, but over the course of the movie becomes more helpful to her cause. Hawkes commands the screen every time he appears, and rivals Lawrence as the best performance of the film.

See it for Lawrence. See it for Hawkes. See it for the script. In fact, see it for everything.

Winter's Bone gets ***1/2 out of ****
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The lesser of two evils...
Siamois18 November 2010
I had a very bad feeling about this movie, half expecting a pointless and artsy flick with no semblance of a plot. Boy, was I wrong.

In a nutshell, the movie follows Ree Dolly, a teenage girl stuck in a dirt poor area in Missouri, trying to get by with her younger brother and sister and their depressed, lethargic mother. Their father is an absent figure, known to be involved in the production of meth, like many locals looking for cash in this barren, economically dead area. The environment, the people surrounding her... everything is bleak, harsh and brilliantly depicted by director Debra Granik but that's only the start of this film. One day, she learns her father has jumped bail. Problem is, the house was put on guarantee. Ree and her family will lose what little they have as the house will be seized in a week.

But Ree is convinced her father may well be dead. She embarks on a quest to find out what happened to him and where he is. And in the process, must face and question people no teenage girl should have any business with, ever.

Granik's direction is absolutely brilliant. Gritty, hearty, uncompromising. Some scenes are more chilling and tensed than any horror movie you could imagine. This movie is not for the faint of heart.

Even the whole point of her quest is painfully tragic and without much hope. Which is the lesser of two evils? If Ree finds out and proves her dad is dead, her family is now fatherless and she must continue to be the main provider at the age of 17. If Ree's dad is still alive, it means he jumped bail and is now a fugitive, and Ree and her family are now homeless.

The acting is fantastic. Jennifer Lawrence was a revelation here and has guaranteed herself a career with role. It wold take a string of duds for her to stop having work. The character Bree was a challenging role and it would have been easy to overdo things. The other spectacular performance with much less screen presence is by John Hawkes, who plays Bree's uncle. Teardrop is pretty much as legendary as any character could get in that sort of low-key drama. Hawkes steals every scene he is in and conveys a scary, menacing attitude while leaving a lot of depth and humanity show through. I've seen John Hawkes in tons of movies and I never, ever expected that kind of performance from him. I hope it gets him noticed. Many other performances are great but it would be too long to list.

Winter's Bone is for me, without a doubt, one of the best movies of 2010. The plot is terrific and original, flirting with several genres without ever employing clichés for the sake of it. It is memorable and fresh. All the characters are fascinating, the situations interesting and director Granik's depiction of the Ozarks environment plunges you in this world. Best viewed when you're in the mood for a quite dark movie.
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"Winter's Bone" chills you with its authenticity
chuck-reilly13 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Deep-seated suspicions and clan hostilities run deep in Debra Granik's backwoods Ozark country tale "Winter's Bone." Taken from the novel by Daniel Woodrell, the story involves the odyssey of seventeen-year-old Ree Dolly (a great Jennifer Lawrence) who is desperate to find her wayward Meth-addicted father. He's due in court in less than a week and he's already jumped his bail after putting his ramshackle house up as bond. If he doesn't turn up, dead or alive, the family will be thrown out into the fields. To make matters worse, Ree's mother is nearly catatonic and the teenager has to tend to her two younger siblings or else they'll starve. Adding to her dilemma is the fact that her father recently attained notoriety among his clan members as a snitch to the local police. They'd just as soon prefer to see him dead as to give out any information regarding his whereabouts. It doesn't take Ree long to find out that she's up against a proverbial stone wall and that her own life could be in danger just for asking a simple question. Her father's younger brother called Teardrop (John Hawkes) eventually decides to aid her search, but he seems more bent on revenge than anything else. And he obviously knows a lot more about Ree's father's fate than he's letting on. "Winter's Bone" examines an area of economic plight and downright poverty that hasn't been seen in an American film in years. The picturesque Ozark Mountain scenery is abandoned for a bird's eye view of blown-out Methamphetamine labs, seedy bars, and dilapidated homes. Ree's sole purpose is to provide for her family, even if that means taking a vicious beating for asking the wrong questions at the wrong time. Her quest to find her dear old dad takes quite a few tragic detours; but what doesn't kill this young heroine makes her that much stronger.

The fine cast includes Garret Dillahunt as the local sheriff who's more interested in Uncle Teardrop's violent activities than cracking down on illegal Meth labs. Their face-off duel near the end of the film is one of the highlights and a pivotal scene. Dale Dickey, looking like an Ozark version of Madame DeFarge, is the menacing Merab. Her grim-reaper face is enough to scare away any stray animal or traveling salesperson. Lauren Sweetser (Gail) provides some comforting moments for Ree, but they're too few to make much of a difference in her tragic search for the truth. Like everyone else in this neck of the woods, Gail has her own problems to contend with. Anne Rosellini co-wrote the adapted screenplay with director Granik and they're sure to win at least a few nominations when the awards season rolls around. "Winter's Bone" is one of the best movies of the year and certainly the most original one by a country mile.
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Atmospheric but stumbles over the line
tr916 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Winter's Bone is a good film. The plot is quite simple but still manages to be very gripping to watch. The atmosphere is tense and edgy and I really was intrigued all the way through the film.

Winter's Bone is about a teenage Ozark Mountain girl, Ree, who is in search of her father. She is caring for her younger siblings as well as her mother who is sick. There is some trouble with her missing father and unless she finds him she is at risk of losing her home. We see Ree go to extreme lengths to protect her family and try and get to the bottom of things.

The atmosphere is very tense and the film is shot beautifully. Jennifer Lawrence gives another fantastic performance (well worthy of that Oscar nomination). My main problem is that the ending seemed a bit abrupt. From the description I read about the film I thought there would be a lot more to the story about her father. All in all a good film though.

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