Set in the Ozark foothills of southern Missouri, this is the America you don’t generally see in the movies. A grim, mysterious surrounding where everyone tries to help but no one can really be trusted. Adapted from a novel of the same name by Daniel Woodrell who generally sets most of his stories in the Ozarks and writes what he calls “Country Noir”, this is Debra Granik’s second feature film after Down to the Bone (which was about cocaine addiction). Winter’s Bone was also the only Independent Film nominated for the Best Picture category this year at the Oscars.
Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) a 17-year old logger-cum-hunter struggles to support her two siblings and sick mother after her Meth-cooker turned stool-pigeon father has disappeared. One day the police come knocking saying that her father has put up their house and property up for bond to get out of prison and if he doesn’t show up for his court date, the bondsman will claim it, leaving them homeless.
Here starts Ree’s quest to find her father, alive or dead, going to relatives close and far trying to get any sort of information she can get. Helped by her coke snorting, ex-crook uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes), Ree proves her mettle as she goes to extremes where you wouldn’t have seen a 17 year old go before, from taking a beating at the hands of old women to sawing off hands of a dead body.
Jennifer Lawrence carries the film brilliantly on her young shoulders, without much star-power in the movie. A wonderfully spun thriller set in the dark mountains. It had a kind of Mystic River feel to it. The pace at times is quite slow but it gets along. I really didn’t make the connection between the title and plot and the answers I found on the internet weren’t satisfying – maybe I should read the book.
Jennifer Lawrence is unbelievably watchable in her performance as Ree. Definitely a star in the making; move over Disney girls! “Her performance is more than acting, it’s a gathering storm.” , as one critic said. Did she deserve the Oscar? Hell yes!
Natalie Portman according to me was given the awards for ‘Most’ Acting rather than Best Acting, a performance I found tough to watch except moments when the “Black Swan” broke through. But again an Oscar so early in her career might not be justified. Maybe the Academy should come up with awards for Break Through Performance.
On the other hand, John Hawkes gives a pretty good performance but Best Actor in Supporting Role was one of the toughest categories this year with jaw dropping performances by Christian Bale and Geoffrey Rush, his looked nothing much in their comparison. Tough Luck.
Winter’s Bone was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. We all knew it was going to the so-called story about the origins of Facebook, and Best Picture, but there is really no comparison to The King’s Speech (at least not from the films that were nominated, Howl maybe but that movie is criminally under-watched.)