The lips-go-blue, mean, icy cold of an Ozark’s winter that Daniel Woodrell so vividly describes in his fine, fine, really-go-read-the-damn-thing novel isn’t strongly conveyed in Debra Granik’s film adaptation. But it’s hard to make it sleet or make a pond freeze when you’re filming on location on an indie budget. So don’t count that against her, authenticity hawks. Especially since she and her cast and crew get everything else so right.
If you’ve driven down a lonely road in, say in Boone or Carroll Counties, near Christian and Taney counties in southern Missouri where “Winter’s Bone” is set, you’ve glimpsed the backwoods detritus that provides the films setting — truck corpses, single wides in traction, an old tractor part angling to become one of the weeds. And you’ve probably come across the people: proud, sullen, with permanently furrowed brows or sunken cheeks.
The film, which follows a 17-year-old girl on a quest to find her reprobate father, who’s put his family’s house and land up for bond, lives and breathes these people, that setting. And as much as we’ve seen their cinematic cousins–fairly distant, let’s say–on film (“Deliverance” is an obvious one), you’ve probably not glimpsed them this round, this imbued with human qualities.
Which is not to say that the film doesn’t work on the same kind of elemental, terrifying level as those cousins. It’s plotted slow, but the meth-addled and thick-bearded are just as terrifying, if not more so than your typical hillbillies-out-for-blood pic.
Jennifer Lawrence, the 19-year-old star of the film, gives a harrowing, awards-deserving performance. Her accents right. Her body language and intonation, especially, are right. And, for those that dole the awards, she’s supermodel hot (see this month’s Esquire), playing small-town, broke-down. Don’t worry, other folks, it’s not distracting.
But a warning to those who haven’t seen the film, who’ll catch it when it inevitably makes it way back to Market Street later in the summer or on video, this is the bleakest thing you’ll see all year. Definitely in the film festival. But the lead character, Ree Dolly, played by the supermodel, is such a testament to gumption that just as your brain is recoiling at chainsaw hitting flesh, another, more elemental part, will be cheering, loudly, and feeling uplifted.
We’re sticking to our guns. Still the prohibitive favorite to win the Best of the South award.
I caught the film on a screener. I had other obligations tonight. Anybody catch the Q&A after. Hear anything enlightening?