Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Winter's Bone (Rhoades)

“Winter’s Bone” Chills and Thrills
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Back when in college I lived in a tin-oven house trailer on campus, a veritable sweatbox. So during the hot summer months I went to see lots of movies just to partake of the theater’s air conditioning.

Here it is August, and if you’re dreading the heat just go see “Winter’s Bone,” the chilling new indie film that’s currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.

Based on the 2006 book by Daniel Woodrell, the story takes place in the wintry Ozark Mountains, a bleak landscape that defines the hardscrabble existence of 17-year-old Ree Dolly. Although still a child in years, she’s the most grown-up person in her hillbilly family. When her meth-producing dad jumps bail, she sets out to find him, for he has put up their home as bond. This journey takes her through a snowy countryside filled with hardened criminals and harrowing encounters. She must unravel the mystery of her fugitive father’s disappearance or else lose all.

Jennifer Lawrence gives a standout performance as Ree. No wonder this moving drama won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Lawrence set out on her own journey at the age of 14, traveling to New York City to become an actress. Starring in Guillermo Arriaga’s “The Burning Plain” opposite Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger, she won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for best young emerging actor/actress at the 2008 Venice Film Festival.

Being from the South was an advantage for Lawrence when it came to “Winter’s Bone.” Director Debra Granik says, “It helped on the audition so much because many of the young women had struggled with the accent and the dialect, and Jen had an ear for it. She did not have use her psychic energy, her resources, to actually say a sentence. She wanted the role, she made that known, so that’s always a huge thing. She had read it and had taken it to heart and really felt like she could commit. And she did.”

When Granik first read Daniel Woodrell’s novel, she was taken with the central character. Ree was “a protagonist that I had been waiting for,” she says.

While drawn to the girl’s strength and grit, Granik was equally drawn to Ree’s world – “a troubled, tight-knit community deep in the Ozarks.”

The film was shot in southern Missouri, a region of “rolling hills and gravelly soil.”

“If we were going to attempt this, we knew it had to be there,” says Granik. “It had to have local people populating the film visually. There is no chance that this film would come to life in any way that would be close to the book unless we did it there.”

Music was an important ingredient for this Missouri setting. The soundtrack includes “The Missouri Waltz,” “High on a Mountain,” and “Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies,” among other traditional folk songs.
“Winter is always the setting when you show that the stakes are very high because survival is just that much harder,” says Granik. “Everything is happening on a more dire basis. Your hunger, your cold, what it takes to take care of two small kids in winter.”

The film is haunting, yet strangely uplifting.

Your teeth may chatter. But not from the air conditioning.
[from Solares Hill]

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