Gerald Wright's Movie Coverage
Directed by: Debra Granik
Running time: 100 min.
Release date: June 11, 2010
Distributor: Roadside Attractions
MPAA Rating: R
Filmed on: Red Digital Camera
The film Winter's Bone is based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell of the same title. This is a masterful film adaptation capturing life in the subculture of Missouri's Ozark clan community, its drug culture, and female teenager attempting to take control of her life without parental guidance.
The setting is an impoverished isolated town in the southwestern Missouri Ozark mountains. The protagonist of this movie is 17 year old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence). She is a hardened, yet not bitter, young woman strapped down in providing for her younger brother, sister, and clinically depressed mother after the two-week disappearance of her father. Ree's dream is escape her run-down cabin living conditions of the poverty-stricken hills of the Ozarks. However, she has no choice but to find her father Jessup who is a well known methamphetamine-cooking/addict recently arrested on drug charges. Ree faces the pressure of potential foreclosure of her property and the separation from her siblings, if her father does not appear in court in a week.
The film begins with a true-grit character study/coming-of-age format. This opens the portal of Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal of a strong female heroic character who makes decisions early in this film that will have a significant shaping impact on the rest of her life. Her assertiveness is powerfully displayed on screen through her constant investigation. This was a career-making and possible Oscar nominating performance. Her challenging and lively talent left me waiting for the next episodic scene in the film. Much like Courtney Hunt's 2008 award winning film "Frozen River" starring Melissa Leo, Debra Granik ("Down To The Bone" 2004) directed 19 year old Jennifer Lawrence in a great performance.
I got a chance to interview filmmaker Debra Granik, lead actress Jennifer Lawrence, and Jack Hawkes (plays uncle Teardrop). Director Debra Granik's credits date back to 1997 as a boom operator and to various in-back of camera positions as off-line editor, assistant camera, additional photographer, cinematographer, producer, and writer. I was impressed how this woman worked her way into success. I asked her how this project came about and how she stayed true to the novelist's ideas. She replied " I read Daniel Woodrell's book in one sitting....it's a tightly spun American story."
She explained to me that it was fascinating for her to get involved in this project because she is a middle-class person who was born in Washington D.C. and lived in most her life in Boston and New York. She never knew of this lifestyle. In order to get a true feeling of what the film was to be, she visited Daniel Woodrell in the Ozarks. Debra also explained what motivates the Ree character; "You've got this very modest piece of land, you've got this very modest house, your family's had these timber acres, these woods, for quite a lot of years, and even that can be taken from you." In the film, Ree is repeatedly warned to give up her search and leave well enough alone. Debra says, " Ree is determined, even as the search gets harder and more dangerous..... There is no-one who could ever contest that Ree shouldn't be fighting for these significant strands of her life."
I had an enlightening interview with Jennifer Lawrence, a young woman who will be 20 years old on August 19th. She stated, "I've had a career since I was 14, I pay my own rent, I live on my own, and I'm not going to have a lot in common with somebody who's my age....And I know I sound like a jerk, but what are we going to talk about? Prom? I did not go to prom. Or your boyfriend? I'm working all the time." These are understandable statements, because she was discovered on a mother/daughter trip from Louisville, Kentucky to New York five years ago when a photographer offered to take her picture. It landed an agent. She soon opted to go into acting and moved to L. A. with her parents and found work in a sitcom. In her role as Ree, Jennifer said, "I auditioned three times for this part...I really wanted this." Her persistence in getting the part carried over to the character she portrays. However, her youth shines in her demeanor as she teased me that morning by asking me about the glass of milk I halfway drank. She joked at me by saying, "Who drinks milk?" I returned by saying, "Don't you have strong opinions about breakfast?" She replied, "Yes, I believe in a good breakfast everyday."
The supporting cast is flawless and authentic. John Hawkes is outstanding as Ree's uncle Teardrop. Here is a man who is caught between the backwoods criminal codes of honor of silence and the responsibilities of family. I asked him if he drew from his musical background and his Texas roots for his role and he replied; "Yes, on some things, but I'm not a method actor. I have my own method. I work off of my senses." I found that quite interesting because his character shines under the great direction of Debra Granik. Kevin Breznahan, Dale Dickey, Garret Dillahunt, Sheryl Lee, Lauren Sweetser, and Tate Taylor complete the film with outstanding performances.
Watch for this film when the Oscar nominations are unveiled, because I expect to see name Jennifer Lawrence on the list.
FILM RATING (A)