DVD Review – Winter’s Bone


Winter’s Bone is the story of Ree Dolly (played exceptionally well by Jennifer Lawrence) who sets about to find her absentee father and see that he attends a court date because he has leveraged the family home to the bail bondsman who will seize the home if he does not appear for his charges related to Meth production, sale or some other such lawyerings. Anyway, this is not a spy film, plot is not terribly important. I don’t want to talk too much about this because it’s best to experience this type of film without knowing the ins and outs of the plot too well.

The thing that most impressed me was the setting. The setting of the Ozark mountain area (Mizzurah, for those, like me, that needed Google to find out where this is) provides a monochromatic, bleak backdrop for the similarly bleak lives of the characters. This is one of those films where the setting is a character unto itself and the cinematography reflects this by framing shots carefully to get the full effect of these people’s surroundings. I often found myself looking at everything around the actual person on screen, and at times the people bleed into the surrounding spaces, and vice versa. There’s a specific scene of Ree entering a home and meeting her dad’s friend and the scene of people playing music and singing bluegrass where each decoration on the tables and walls feels as authentic as the music you’re hearing. A simple pan around the room does a wonderful job of establishing everything we need to know about this subset of the society; this is achievable because of the careful set decoration and great casting.

Ahhh, fond memories of childhood in meth country...

Casting was another very strong aspect to the film. Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes (Kenny Powers’ brother, amongst other things) are the two lead roles and both are outstanding. Many others toss around the “oscar worthy” label for Miss Lawrence, but I’m not particularly good at picking Oscar bait and I don’t really care because Colin Firth and Hellen Mirren will probably win for whatever European historical biopic they’re doing this year anyway. Jennifer Lawrence was very convincing and I really enjoyed her performance so take that for what it’s worth from a guy who stole the ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ Parts 1 and 2 combo DVD from Blockbuster because A) It’s awesome and B) it’s very hard to find. (*by “stole” I mean ‘never returned stole’ not ‘walked to the back corner of the store and pried the magnetic strip out with pliers and put the disc in my jacket stole’) Also, credit to the filmmakers for getting people who actually looked like they were hard living Ozark natives and not merely going with attractive actors and some hollywood ugly magic. The traditional Hollywood film meth addict is something like: take gorgeous young actress, put some (but not too much) olive oil in her hair, let professional make-up artists add splotchy eye liner…BOOM meth addict.

before meth...


After meth... A haunting transformation to be sure, thanks Hollywood


Anyway, I’ve kind of veered off course here. But, yea, casting… it was excellent. There are no wasted roles in this film; even when characters have no dialogue they add tremendously to the haunting ambience of the places Ree travels.

The direction was very taut, very steady and sure. Debra Granik wrote and directed the film and this to me is usually a good thing because I think there’s a more unified creative force behind the movie. A writer/director often has a clear vision from page to screen and this is often to the benefit of small films like this. I really like the style of direction, for as many outdoor shots of never-ending woods as there are, the film retains an intimate feel as we are focused on Ree’s journey.

I recommend this film. It’s not a pillow nail biter. It’s not an edge of your seat thriller. It’s a small movie with a very unique setting, powerful and fitting performances and excellent direction. I give it five Corbin Bernsens out of seven.

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