Review: Winter’s Bone

Winter’s Bone | Debra Ganick, 2010

In Winter’s Bone, Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) is a seventeen year-old girl who must look after her two younger siblings and her sick mom after her dad goes missing. One day, the police comes to warn them that if he doesn’t show up to his court date, they will lose their house and their land. So, she takes it upon herself to look for him. However, by doing this she will have to go deep into the world of the drug market since her dad used to make drugs. Once she starts looking around, she draws the attention of just about everyone, and people will do just about everything to stop her, but she won’t give up until she finds her dad, dead of alive.

Earlier this year, Winter’s Bone won the top prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and since then a wave of buzz has followed it. Just about every critic praised it for being thrilling and for having a star-making performance by Jennifer Lawrence. But now that I’ve seen it, I must say that I’m a bit disappointed.

The movie has an interesting story, but it is told in such a way that it didn’t grab me from the get-go, and by the time it did, the movie was nearly over. That would have been fine if it had had a sucker-punch of an ending, but it just ends and we get very little closure. Sure, we do learn just about everything that the audience needed to learn, but I feel like if we had know more details then I would have been able to sympathize with the characters, but I just couldn’t. Since we are just all of the sudden thrown into this situation it is hard to feel for Ree and her family. All we get are a couple of shots showing how shitty their life is, and then they are told that they will be homeless if their deadbeat dad doesn’t go to court. Well, I can’t really feel sorry for them, especially since they are pretty much defending his ways.

With that said, there are quite a few things to admire here. First off, I quite liked the direction. Debra Ganick puts us in a world that most of us just don’t want to here about but that is pretty much here, and she makes it seem so natural. There are no obnoxious music cues or anything and that helps a lot. Then there are the performances. Jennifer Lawrence deserves all the praise she has gotten. The producers could have cast any beautiful young Hollywood actress looking for an Oscar role, but they did a great job in finding Lawrence. She has the Hollywood looks, and a talent to match them. She just gives such a natural performance that with a lesser actress, the movie would not feel as authentic no matter how hard the director tried. Then there is John Hawks as Teardrop, Ree’s junkie uncle. The role is not very big or showy, but Hawks commands the screen every time he appears and exudes this power just with his body language.

All in all, Winter’s Bone is a nice movie that gets better as it goes along, but it  never reaches a truly satisfying point. I do, however, look forward to seeing where the careers of everyone involved here goes, as there is a lot of talent in this production, but this just wasn’t the best showcase.

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