Friday Movie Blog: Winter’s Bone

When Grown Ups just isn't quite grown up enough for you

I’m sorry; I just couldn’t do it. After finally seeing Toy Story 3 (have you still not seen it?), I was in no mood to put on my hip boots and wade back into big-budget, Hollywood schlock. So sorry Grown Ups and Knight and Day, this just wasn’t your week. (And sorry to all you out there who wanted my perspective on those new movies from Adam Sandler and Thetan Cruise.) Instead, I wanted something that was gritty, low budget, and preferably with very few known actors—in other words, I wanted to reconnect with the indie world. Knowing its recent buzz (Sundance Grand Jury Prize), I knew Winter’s Bone (R) was the one. It was. And will easily be one of my faves of the year.

The plot, much like the movie itself, is sparse: After a father uses the family home as credit for a bail bond, the 17-year-old daughter, Ree (Jennifer Lawrence), must find her father before the house is taken away. The movie is set in the Ozarks, a place where people refer to police officers as the “law,” and everyone is related and have names like “Teardrop” or “Thump.” In this land of coyote t-shirts and American flag biker jackets, there is a consistent, bubbling rage just beneath the surface. Any tiny infraction or unfavorable act unleashes the pent-up violence (usually aided by some good ole meth-snortin).

When Ree returns back to Thump’s house, after being warned not to, she is met with a mug smashed across her face. She is dragged into a garage and beaten by three women (because it might not be appropriate for a man to beat the crap out of her). It’s like the characters exist in a frostbitten, post-apocalyptic world. Not that the landscape is barren or dead; rather, it’s as if the people exist in a consistent, desolate distrust.

The movie is never easy to watch. And yet, you cannot take your eyes away from it or its phenomenal actors. Lawrence stands out in her detailed and mature performance. Ree is a complex character, but Lawrence is skillfully able to display both her hardened exterior and her vulnerabilities. Similarly, John Hawkes is simply wonderful as Teardrop, Ree’s uncle. He goes from moments of frighteningly harsh violence to restrained compassion. Both actors will duly receive notice.

So if you are looking for the smart antidote to the Hollywood summer movie factory, head to the Ritz Five and see this ruthlessly grown-up film. (In theaters.)

My Grade: A