Winter’s Bone [FB]
November 8th, 2010 by Dan

I first saw the trailer for Winter’s Bone before Män som hatar kvinnor (AKA: Men Who Hate Women (AKA: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo)) and I immediately thought: wow, that looks intense. Well I finally got around to watching it this past weekend and I was both right and wrong.

For those not familiar with the premise, WB is about a 17-year-old girl, Ree Dolly, whose father is out on bond before a meth-cooking trial. Unfortunately for Ree, he put up his house to pay for the bond, so if he doesn’t show up for his court date, the government will take the house. Luckily (note: not lucky at all), Ree’s father has gone missing and she now needs to find him.

Further background: Ree, her brother and sister, and her invalid mother, all live in a very rural, mountainous part of Missouri, I think, and her father’s associates are menacing in a scary way that is not at all like crime drama us city folk are used to.

What was most intriguing to me about this movie was that very setting. It’s not often that the rural US is anything but a punchline or stereotype for your typical Hollywood flick, so this was a chance to see life through the eyes of an America I know next to nothing about.

Turns out that crime in the middle of nowhere is just as male-dominated as anywhere else. All of the powerful men in this movie are extra menacing because our window into the world is a teenage girl that none of them respect. Even stranger and scarier is the fact that everyone in the movie is related in some way. The story revolves around the Dolly crime family which means that all of these figures that are being so menacing are uncles and cousins. Everyone is bound by blood.

In the end I was wrong about the sense of dread I thought I would feel. It was there and apparent, but it wasn’t as emphasized as I thought it would be. Part of the blame goes to me for watching the movie with Spanish subtitles. You can only feel so much tension when you’re parsing out another language instead of immersing yourself in the narrative, but the other part is just the way the movie was made. There’s a lot more it could have done to emphasize just how dangerous these people were and how much trouble Ree was in at a given moment. I think of another movie I just saw, I Am Love, and the magnificent way that familial tension was handled at the start of that movie and I see that WB could have been more.

I don’t want to spoil too much of the movie, but there was one standout scene where some of the women of the crime family take pity on Ree and decide to help her out a bit. They take her out to the middle of a lake with a chainsaw and Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Ree, acts her ass off in a truly grisly and chilling scene that really stands out in this movie.

This is definitely a flick to see. Go out and rent it.

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