Friday, August 6, 2010

Winter's Bone

Independent film is normally done out of love. It is often made without the big budgets of studio movies, and there is an authentic touch of love and appreciation involved in the stories portrayed on screen. Often times those involved work for scale if there is any pay involved at all. There are hopes the film will take off and if there are financial rewards it often comes on the back end where profits come about due to the success of the movie. One of the things that help an indie obtain success is recognition on the Film Festival Circuit. Of those, there are none more respected than Sundance. Opening this week in limited release is a film that has garnished many Film Festival Awards, including the Sundance Awards for Best Picture and Best Screenplay. Winters Bone is a film of brilliance often ignored. One will discover here that there are ample movies being made on the indie circuit that is simply put, incredible.

Winters Bone is the story of a family in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. Jennifer Lawrence is already garnishing Oscar Buzz for her incredible portrayal of 17-year-old Ree Dolly. Ree is the primary caretaker of her family. It is obvious that she has quit high school to care for her disabled mother a small brother and sister because her father has disappeared. He was involved in the manufacturing and distribution of illegal drugs, primarily crystal meth. Ree discovers that her father placed their house and property up as collateral for his bond after an arrest. She soon realizes the courts and bail Bond Company is going to take ownership of the property if the father doesn’t show up for court. In her search for her father and in the effort to save the family she starts asking questions, and going places she is told she has no business in. As a result, the story takes the viewer on a dramatic roller coaster ride based not on the thrills expected in big budget films, but in character development and story. Winters Bone slowly sucks in the viewer and has them enthroned until the movies dramatic conclusion.

Debra Granick, the writer and co-director does an incredible job of researching the topic of which she is presenting. While the Ozarks are a beautiful area, we have seldom seen the reality of Ozark living among the poor as is presented in Winters Bone. While not all families are involved in the drug trade, in fact far from it, what we see is a way of life presented that is a part of the life of many, a way of life often either forgotten about or ignored by the general populace. The reality is, there are many that live the lives presented. From those dependant on the land for food, whether meat or crops, to those who live in abusive and difficult situations. One of the things Jennifer Lawrence does in her portrayal of Ree is show us a strong female character. Not since Sally Fields portrayal of Norma Rae have I seen such a strong, real female character. We see the character played brilliantly, but the direction, editing, and cinematography certainly add to the credibility of this film.

One of the strong, thought provoking points presented in Winters Bone is the strength of family. We see the importance of family and the responsibility to family. While many may have forgotten about this concept, we see a portrayal where the poor value and honor this tradition, largely due to their own realization that they have little, it isn’t possessions they want, it is the love of family. We see it as Ree goes from one family member to another trying to find out about her father. She questions their commitment to family as she searches for answers. In her search she reminds her extended family of the importance of family. In the process, she converts many of those around her to the things that are important. The process isn’t easy; there are sacrifices made and consequences for her actions. Not everyone wants or respects the closeness and value of family, but Ree has a commitment she won’t compromise on. She understands her own need to sacrifice in order to see to it that her younger siblings have the chance she never had. She has them practicing spelling and math as she walks them to school, and teaches them not just about love, but how to live. Her example reminded me of an old missionary concept where; ‘it is better to teach a man to fish than it is to give him a fish. When you give him a fish you feed him for a day, when you teach him to fish you feed him for a lifetime.’ As I left the theater and reflected on Winters Bone, I wondered, do we really value family enough to make sacrifices, even the hard sacrifices that shows we love our family?

Winters Bone is a tremendous film, while a little slow, especially at the start, the character development is needed to draw the viewer in, and that, it does. By the end of the film I was sitting on the edge of my seat, anticipating and wondering what would come next. Much of the credit has to go to the cast, while much hype has deservedly been given towards Jennifer Lawrence; I was personally drawn into the character of Teardrop, played brilliantly by John Hawkes. I will likely see this movie again just to watch this artesian paint a masterpiece. This is an independent film that deserves an audience. During the summer hype of many major releases, this is one that deserves an audience, especially if the viewer wants quality acting, and quality story. I anticipate it may get lost in the Oscar Buzz to come about at the end of the year, if it does, it is a shame, it deserves all of the kudos it gets.

On a scale of 1 – 10, while not quite perfect, not far from it a very deserving and enjoyable 9

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Comments from the Director Writer

The following is the official trailer for Winter's Bone

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