Remember the name because come awards season I predict you’ll be hearing the name a lot. The book by Daniel Woodrell has been out for a few years, but the movie won’t be released until next month, and then it will be in limited run. I would imagine it’ll be re-released during awards season, and frankly, I don’t understand why they don’t just wait to release it. Still, most people probably won’t see it until it hits DVD and maybe that’s their plan, to have it on DVD during awards season. In any case, I would urge people to PLEASE use spoiler boxes for the last half of the story/movie at least until after the Academy Awards next year.
Oh, did I say Academy Awards? Hell yeah, this is going to get several nominations. Well, I have been wrong in the past (no Amy Adams for Enchanted, which I predicted) but I did predict nominations for Slumdog Millionaire and The Hurt Locker several months before the nominations came out, and I predict nominations for this too. I never would have predicted SM or THL’s wins, and I’m not going to go there with Winter’s Bone either. More about my predictions in a bit.
I didn’t even go to the theater to see this movie. The Gene Siskel Film Center has been having an Akira Kurosawa retrospective and I went to the theater after work the other day to see Throne of Blood. When I got there for the 6:15 showing, I saw that Winter’s Bone was screening at 8:30, so I went ahead and bought a ticket for it too. I’d heard vague things about it. It won the Grand Jury and the Screenwriting prizes at the Sundance Film Festival in January. I don’t like to read an in-depth synopsis of any movie I might want to see, so I avoided reading most of the articles at the time. I just made note that it won at Sundance, that’s all I needed to know, and so the name was in my head when I saw it on the marquee. Turns out I picked a great day to catch a previously-unseen Kurosawa, because the Winter’s Bone showing was an advance screening, with the director, Debra Granik, there for a Q&A after the movie! What luck!
What luck indeed. This is a fantastic movie, with an interesting story, great acting, an unusual setting and it had me spellbound from the first frames.
It’s a fairly simple story. The movie is set in the Missouri Ozarks. Ree Dolly is a 17-year old girl with a lot of weight on her shoulders. Her father Jessup Dolly, a crystal meth maker, dealer and addict, has been arrested then let out on bond, but he’s disappeared. Ree is taking care of her mentally ill mother, and her younger brother and sister (I know that’s different from the book). She finds out that if Jessup doesn’t show for an upcoming hearing, they’ll all be out on their ear, because Jessup put the house and the surrounding land up for bond. She has to find him. The bulk of the movie is her search, which includes coming into contact with a lot of creepy criminal close and distant relatives. She doesn’t have “adventures” or get into “situations” though. Most of it is very low-key and realistic, and a lot of the action and dialogue is silent, seen through eyes and facial expressions and body language. Ree doesn’t have a car, so a lot of scenes just show her trudging up and down hills to go somewhere. It’ll drive some people nuts. I loved every bit of it, of course.
Ree is a great character that we don’t see very often. She’s taciturn, stoic, calm, confused but determined, loyal, very smart and wise beyond her years. She’s seen first-hand what crystal meth can do to people and wants no part of it, though she’s not going to judge or snitch on people who need the money it brings them (in other eras it would have been moonshine and pot that brought in money). She’s painstakingly responsible, teaching her younger siblings how to shoot, hunt, skin, and cook the game which is their only food source. She’s had to quit school to care for her family, and her dreams of going into the Army seem distant and unobtainable. She could sell the land to a lumber company except that 1) she’s too young to sign the papers (her mother is near-catatonic and couldn’t do it either) and 2) it’s been in the family for generations and she thinks it should stay in the family. She really has no choice but to find her father, no matter how much he and others want him to stay hidden.
Jennifer Lawrence is a revelation as Ree, and here’s where I come in with my predictions. I predict that Jennifer will be this year’s Carey Mulligan/Melissa Leo/Ellen Page/Catalina Sandino Moreno/Keisha Castle-Hughes (that is, an “unknown” whose Best Actress nomination comes as a surprise to everyone except those who have been paying attention to awards precursors). More predictions in a minute.
The Q&A with Debra Granik was fun and fascinating. Granik directed a movie a few years ago called Down To The Bone which I haven’t seen, shame on me, but I remember well because it was the movie that brought Vera Farmiga (Up In The Air) to people’s attention. Film lovers, awards geeks, and casting agents, that is. That movie didn’t get any Oscar nominations but I don’t think Winter’s Bone and Jennifer Lawrence will suffer the same fate. Debra’s very smart, very talented, very respectful of her material (she and Anne Rosellini adapted the screenplay), and just an all-around interesting person. I would have loved to sit and talk with her for hours.
I don’t want to go into the questions and answers, since no one’s seen the movie at this point. Maybe later.
So, look for Jennifer Lawrence’s name everywhere come awards season. Look for the name John Hawkes, who plays Ree’s uncle, nicknamed Teardrop. If anyone only thinks of him as the strange and nerdy sadsack in Me and You and Everyone We Know, they will be shocked by this performance. He was outstanding in a very complicated role. I would think that Dale Dickey will get some attention as the terrifying Merab. The movie and screenplay will get several nominations from critic’s groups, as will Debra Granik. I would hope.
As for Academy Awards, I think these are locks:
Jennifer Lawrence - Best Actress
Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini - Best Adapted Screenplay
These are very likely:
Best Picture (especially with 10 nominations)
John Hawkes - Best Supporting Actor
These are very possible:
Debra Granik - Best Director
Dale Dickey - Best Supporting Actress
Michael McDonough - Best Cinematography
You Never Know:
Affonso Gonçalves - Best Editing
Dickon Hinchliffe - Best Original Score
Ronnie Hall - Best Supporting Actor (he played “Thump”)
Sure sure, a lot of Sundance winners never get heard from again, and most don’t go on to earn Academy Award nominations, but I have confidence in this one.
I’d like to ask some questions about the book, in spoiler tags of course. Has anyone read it?