Winter's Bone (movie, boxed spoilers)

Winter’s Bone

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

Wishful Thinking:

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?

Haven’t read the book, but I have volunteered for the Sundance Film Festival for the last 5 years, so I saw the movie in January. Pretty impressed with your analysis. Honestly, I’m a bit inebriated for much of the festival, but “Winter’s Bone” was my favorite film of the festival (unlike the really awful “Happythankyoumoreplease”, which won the Audience Award, I walked out of it). Anyhoo, I definitely like your John Hawkes Best Supporting Actor idea–remember he was “Lennon” in the last season of “Lost”, the Temple episodes? I also remember the score was pretty haunting.

Not much of a reply considering your well thought-out post, but just wanted to pipe up.

Sounds like White Precious.

jumala, I’m glad someone else saw it and can back me up! I’ve never seen an episode of Lost so I only knew John Hawkes from the Miranda July movie. I’m looking forward to the opening so I can go see it again. I forgot to mention that the official site lists theaters where it will be playing, with more theaters added all the time.

Dio, what exactly, in what I wrote, makes you think it’s anything like Precious? The only things they have in common are teenage female protagonists and they both won at Sundance. You might as well say that Precious is a Black Quinceañera. It has a teenage female protagonist and won at Sundance too. Wait, maybe Quinceañera is a Mexican Real Women Have Curves, since that also has a teenage female protagonist and won at Sundance! :rolleyes:

I’d like to apologize for that eye-roll smiley. Winter’s Bone really isn’t anything like Precious, but that smiley was silly and unnecessary. I want to celebrate this movie, not turn the thread into a flame tiff.

I just came in to say that I stopped the OP after about 3 paragraphs, because the movie sounds really interesting and I don’t like to know too much before I see something new.

So, it’s on my list, I’ll get to it when it’s released (or when the BR is released).

Thanks for the head’s up!

I’m bumping this because the movie is now playing in several cities, with many more being added in the coming weeks. There’s a list of theaters on the official web site. I was surprised to see it’s currently playing in Kansas City, and Fayetteville, Arkansas!

I saw it again last night and it absolutely holds up. It was even more emotional for me because I knew what to expect, and I walked out of the theater with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face. The theater was about 3/4 full. People were milling around in the area right outside the theater, talking about it. I piped up with some of the observations made by Debra Granik after the first showing I saw. At one point there was a crowd of about 10-15 people around me, but everyone was so interested and wanted to talk about the movie.

Bumping this to say I saw Winter’s Bone last week and loved it. Or…came to love it. It’s so grim that I came out of the theatre glad I had seen it but not sure how I felt about it otherwise, but the longer I think about it, the more I like it. It reminded me a lot of Frozen River in terms of the tone of the direction and the similar theme of rural poverty.

I was really impressed with John Hawkes as Teardrop. I’ve only seen Hawkes play the good-natured, sensible Sol Star in Deadwood before, and there isn’t a trace of Sol in Teardrop. If I hadn’t seen Deadwood, I wouldn’t believe that he wasn’t a non-actor that the director had found on location and cast on the spot because he seemed authentically menacing down to the bone. (It was also kind of cool to see him play scenes with other Deadwood alum Garrett Dillahunt again.)

I also liked the scenes of people gathered around to play music in their living room. They were like little pockets of warmth, beauty, and fellowship in such a blighted area, and I thought the banjo at the end of the film was like an indication of the promise of that kind of solace in the future.

Great film – I’d see it again.

I’d heard a lot about this movie, and I wondered if it lived up to the hype. I think it did. Jennifer Lawrence was amazing. I laughed out loud at the scene where the little girl was riding her stuffed horse and jumping on the trampoline. That just looked like so much fun, despite the surrounding backdrop of poverty.

Saw it with a friend of mine from Missouri ( who knows folks from that end of the Ozarks ) and we were both pretty impressed. Deliberate in pace, but never “slow” per se. Very well-acted.

I didn’t recognize him until it was pointed out to me afterwards. A really great job.

I’m so happy that others are seeing it now! I didn’t want to bump the thread again but I was getting a bit depressed. More theaters are being added every week, and it’s worth seeking out. I’ve seen it twice now and plan to see it again on Sunday.

I’m off to see a movie, but wanted to mention that during the Q&A with Debra Granik, she said that the book, which I’m reading now, has Ree’s siblings as 2 boys. They cast the older boy Sonny and were looking high and low for a younger boy but couldn’t find anyone with just the right chemistry. The house Ree lived in in the movie was actually someone’s house, and the family members were around for the pre-production process. Jennifer Lawrence and Isaiah Stone, who played Sonny, got along so well with the little girl in the household, Ashlee Thompson, that one day everyone realized that they had the Ree siblings right in front of their faces, and cast Ashlee, who kept her own name for the character. That and the fact that she lived there were great reasons why she seemed so comfortable. The author had no problems with the change. I loved that story. Those who stay for the credits will see Ashlee again at the very very end.

The movie is 94% at Rotten Tomatoes, with 73 Fresh reviews and 5 curmudgeonly Rotten reviews. Ebert gave it 4 stars.

That’s pretty neat because I thought those two actresses looked so much alike they could be close relatives in real life.

I haven’t stopped thinking about this movie since I saw it, so I guess that’s a sign I need to see it again. :slight_smile:

Looks like it hits Atlanta next week. I will check it out.

:smack: Of course, I meant the Dolly siblings.

I agree, and the 3 of them were so great together. At lot of the people in the film were locals and the whole thing is cast so well it’s practically impossible to tell the locals from the professional actors. Ronnie Hall, who played the terrifying Thump Milton, was a local. Dale Dickey, who played his wife, the terrifying Merab, is a professional actor. Russell Schalk, who played the sympathetic Army recruiter, was a local, and a real Army recruiter. Shelley Waggener, who played Sonya, the kind but somewhat scary neighbor who takes in Ree’s horse, is a professional actor, but is from the Ozarks.

Finally saw it.

I grew up in a poverty-ridden, making-crank-in-a-trailer section of the country, and I have to say that this movie does as good job of catching the feel and look of poverty in the rural US as any I have seen. The detail is amazing. Kudos to the art director.

Very fine movie. Could have used a few bits of comic relief. (An amazing thing to me about the people I know who are trapped in this sort of poverty is the sly humor with which they face it.) There were a few very dry wisecracks thrown in but not much else. Understandable, I guess, given the grim subject matter.

I was surprised to see John Hawkes as Teardrop. Didn’t know he was going to be in this. His performance was subtle, and worthy of some Oscar consideration I thought. (By the way, if you didn’t know, Hawkes is a fine musician. Check out the song Good Man from his band King Straggler.)

In a very minor role, I thought Tate Taylor who played the bonding company’s agent also had a nice subtle combination of toughness and sympathy.

Great performances all around really.

Glad you saw and liked it. There may not have been much comic relief, but there are plenty of bright spots in the movie, it’s not all grim and gloom.

It’s not going to be in the theaters much longer so I hope people will seek it out. As I said, it deserves to be supported.

Did anyone else notice Sheryl Lee (known primarily as Laura Palmer and Maddy Palmer from Twin Peaks) in the film?

I saw it again today. I also convinced my dad, my brother, and my brother’s girlfriend to see it with me, and they all enjoyed it.

My dad had a question, though – what is the title in reference to? I assumed it was taken from a passage in the book, but the wait list for the book at the library is long, and we want to know now. :slight_smile:
ETA: We disagreed about the ending, regarding Teardrop and the banjo. Some of us believe he was to be taken at face value and would return for it (thereby returning into Ree’s life/family), and some of us believe he was just saying that to her so he could gracefully say goodbye before leaving to kill Jessup’s killer and risk his own life and/or freedom. What say you all?

I’m reasonably sure it was the latter.

My take as well.

Same here too.

I finished reading the book and in the back is a Q&A with the writer Daniel Woodrell. This may or may not help. He clarifies, but then muddies, the explanation.

I can see that some of the characters throw Ree a bone, but I still don’t know how the season/weather itself does.