More and more I find that I end up missing several films that get tons and tons of buzz because of their small releases which eventually see new life on the DVD shelves. I did not get to see WINTER’S BONE during its theatrical run, which I’m not even sure opened in my neck of the woods, but unlike many I don’t get to check out in theaters, I can’t say that I regret not being able to see it on the big screen. Is it good, absolutely, I’m just not sure I agree with all the love that I’d been seeing sprinkled upon it.
WINTER’S BONE stars Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly. Ree is a poor 17 year old girl dealing with real life adult situations such as taking care of her sick mother and siblings. She is blindsided when the local sheriff comes knocking one day and informs her that her recently arrested father was released on bond, but that he used their home and property to do so. Ree and her family will lose everything if her father does not show up for court, and the sheriff has been unable to find him, so Ree goes out and starts knocking on doors of dangerous individuals in order to find her father or proof that he is dead in order to save her and her family’s home.
My problems with the film have nothing to do with anything in the film being done badly, the setting is serviceable but not profound, the story is done well but drags a bit and there isn’t a bad performance to be found. Jennifer Lawrence really does deliver a fantastic and riveting performance along with a great supporting turn from John Hawkes as Teardrop. Performances alone do not quite justify the fact that everything else, while decent, is not groundbreaking or overwhelmingly different from many other dramas.
The tone is undeniably bleak and the setting accentuates that, but being dark and depressing, with a character investigating the whereabouts of another character isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel. There is nothing wrong with rehashing old concepts and not changing things up, that’s why I believe that the film is very good, it’s just not amazing. To clarify, I definitely liked the movie and with the expanded numbers in the Best Movie category at the Oscars I can easily see it being nominated and it deserves to be seen, I just don’t think it deserves to win. There are several compelling scenes that director Debra Granik stages and lets unfold in a tense and interesting way, so not everything here is as by the books as I would have initially wrote it off as.
WINTER’S BONE is an extremely dark and bleak film that is worth checking out even if it’s mostly for the inspired and award worthy performance by the young Jennifer Lawrence. It’s hampered mostly by a slow pace that is welcome only in small doses. It’s the kind of film you can watch once and appreciate the delicate nature of all things involved but not feel the strong urge to revisit this world more than that one time.