Tonight, I ain't doing anything you say.
Alright so the 9/10 prediction was probably a bit much, but for a certain kind of movie fan Winter's Bone will be the best movie you see all year. Those of you who enjoy their films painstakingly realist, starkly gritty, entirely no frills and subtly and believably acted will have found heaven with this film, and while I found it to be an excellent piece of film-making I would be lying to say it was exactly in my wheelhouse. Perhaps I like a little frills with my movies. Maybe I like them to be a little superficially stylish and more creatively inclined then driven by realism. But that's my shit to deal with and a debate for another day, because right now I want to take nothing away from Winter's Bone, which is a terrific little movie and one that is bound to get much love this awards season, if not from Oscar.
What really stays with you is the world this movie creates, the way it presents a winter-ravaged, poverty stricken Missouri, full of dead trees, rundown trailers and unforgiving people. Its a stark and grim reality for our protagonist, a 17 year old girl forced to take care of two younger siblings whilst her mother lives off in her own head and dad, well the police are after him and he's nowhere to be found. Jennifer Lawrence has done and will get many, many plaudits for her performance here and so she should, because its a performance of impressive maturity and subtlety. The culture of the movie and the place it represents doesn't subscribe to Sean Pennesque explosions of emotion, so Lawrence has to do everything on the down low, and she does it superbly. An Oscar nomination is deserved and no doubt coming. Equally deserving of acclaim though is John Hawkes, one of those journeymen actors, who you have seen in countless movies and TV shows but always in workmanlike roles, and rarely the centre of attention. But he gets his chance here and for me he's every bit as good as Lawrence, and its their two performances and characters together that make the movie so impressive. There's one particular scene, in which Hawkes faces down Sheriff Garrett Dillahunt, that's just about the most tense, strongly acted scene I can remember in anything all year. Hawkes owns, and in a way this really is his moment.
What separates Winter's Bone perhaps from say, Wendy and Lucy, a movie I liked a lot, is that rather the just be a piece of kitchen sink realism about the affects of the recession, its a strong thriller in its own right, featuring more then one scene of fantastically ratcheted up tension and a very strong, very horrifying finale. And perhaps the fact that its a thriller taking place in such a realist environment makes its moments of violence and fear all the more effective. A very strong calling card for director Debra Granik, career best work from John Hawkes, and a very promising, no doubt career making turn by newcomer Jennifer Lawrence. Even if you don't traditionally like this kind of thing, its a film that's worth the effort.