Sunday, August 29, 2010

Film Review: Winter's Bone

Just as this summer comes to an end, I finally get the chance to catch the first film this year to get enough going for it to be a credible threat in the Best Picture category. I'm going to state right away that I don't expect this film to take the top prize, as the film doesn't quite measure up to The Kids Are All Right or Toy Story 3, but this is still a hugely successful film. The film follows Ree Dolly, a seventeen year old girl who finds herself in the unfortunate position of primary caregiver for her two siblings and mother after her criminal father goes missing. When they are threatened with being kicked off their property if their father doesn't show up for court, Ree goes searching for him.

This film deals a fair bit with the setting of southern Missouri, and how the landscape really echoes the name of state. The trees don't shine of nature's beauty, but instead are more like uneven growths out of the cold winter landscape. The look of the cinematography is just as bleak as the subject matter. This family is being faced with poverty, homelessness, and the fact that their father may be dead. Ree Dolly, portrayed by this year's undiscovered-talent-turned-Oscar-contender Jennifer Lawrence, is one of those great female characters who you rarely see realized on screen. She's just as strong as the men in her criminalistic extended family, just in a different sort of way.

Director Debra Granik (Down to the Bone) really pushes the intensity of this thriller, right up the very end. There are moments where you feel like things could instantly go wrong without the slightest hesitation. You may indeed forget to breath during this movie. However, most things aren't as they initially seem, which is the main difference between a good film and a great one. There are things going on that Ree doesn't approve of or know about, but she can't do anything about it. All she can do is look out for her family's livelihood. Jennifer Lawrence isn't the only golden egg this movie has. John Hawkes also puts up an awards worthy performance as Ree's uncle, Teardrop. All the actors put their best work towards making this a family, and keeping that unique bond authentic.

There isn't much music in
this film, as if it would break the atmosphere of tension that surrounds our characters. Any music we do hear has strange and quiet nature to it. The pacing of the film is pitch-perfect, not laying around longer than it needs to. It gets it's business done while it can, and it doesn't feel rushed. As a matter of fact, you may be tricked into believing that that first thirty minutes of the film is an unnecessary waste of time. Things prove to be more eventful as the last hour of the film unfolds. Winter's Bone may or may not be remembered in the coming years, but it's currently got a number four spot on my list of top films of this year.


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