Every year I go to something called the best picture showcase. This is a movie event that is hosted by AMC theaters where they show all the best picture nominated films. This is done over two Saturdays (five movies a day). Every year it seems like there is one film that comes out of nowhere. There is always one film that I know nothing about and have never heard of. This year it was a movie called Winter’s Bone. Winter’s Bone is a very well put together film that is nominated for four Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor (John Hawkes), Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence) and Best Adapted Screenplay. The acting is very good hence the two Oscar nominees for acting, and I thought the script was very well done. The movie itself was authentic to the area it represented. I find sometimes that films about the South do not feel or seem authentic but this one does. I grew up in Arkansas, (this movie takes place in Missouri) and I have known people who had it that rough or have had family members who have lived that life style. For me, the characters were very well done and believable. It probably helps that this movie was based on the book by the same name by Daniel Woodrell.
Ree, a 17 year old girl, who should be enjoying her last year of high school and thinking about what college to go to or what to do with the rest of her life, is instead the unofficial head of her household. Ree’s mother is mentally ill and cannot take care of herself and her father is a meth cooker who has disappeared. It is up to Ree to take care of her mother and her siblings and keep the family going. Her family is dirt poor, only having the house to their name and often they have to rely on the kindness of their neighbors to put food on the table. One afternoon, the police come by looking for her father. She hasn’t seen him and tells the police so, and they inform her that he has been arrested and put up their house and land as bond for his release. If he does not show up for court, her family will be put out in the woods, as there are no streets here, with no way of surviving. So begins Ree’s journey to find her father so that she can keep her family going.
The interesting thing about this film is its exploration of this Ozark mountain culture. This is a culture where everyone is related to everyone else and there is a code of silence about the goings on in the community. During her search for her father, Ree violates some of these unwritten rules and pays the consequences for them. Winter’s Bone also focuses on the right and wrong values of this culture and the loyalty of taking care of one’s own. It shows us a culture that I grew up in and observed (although not to the extent shown in the movie) but most people don’t know exist. I believe it is for these reasons that Winter’s Bone got nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.
The acting in this movie is superb. This is another film where if the characters aren’t believable then the whole movie is a joke. I liked Jennifer Lawrence as Ree, the strong, yet young female lead in this movie. She is willing to sacrifice anything she has to, including her life and her future, to take care of her family. She shows an amazing lack of fear considering the people she is up against. She also shows a sense of responsibility that few young people show or have the occasion to show. Lawrence gave us a completely believable character. I could have known a girl like her growing up. John Hawkes is excellent as Teardrop. Teardrop is Ree’s Uncle and also a criminal like his brother. At first, he is unwilling to help Ree but when it comes to light that his brother may have been murdered, he steps up to his duty to help his brother’s family. His character is very authentic and very good. Again he has the look and feel of someone I could have known back home. I also liked Merab played by Dale Dickey. In this society, a man cannot harm a woman. So Merab and her sisters do the dirty work for their family who may or may not know where Ree’s father is. Merab’s family are a force to be reckoned with and are the scariest thing out in the woods, still Ree goes up against them to save her family. Overall, the acting is very good in this film. All the characters are done well and have a real feel to them.
Overall, this film is well done and authentic. It might be a little slow for some, and others might think it is unrealistic, but it is a very good film deserving of its Best Picture nomination. I am glad that I got the chance to see it.