THE FILM YAP » Lauren Sweetster We Never Shut Up About Movies Wed, 22 Oct 2014 04:01:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Winter’s Bone Tue, 26 Oct 2010 04:39:24 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Click here for The Yap’s interview with “Winter’s Bone” director Debra Granik

As we edge closer to year’s end, film critics have started work on The List.

The List, of course, is the best movies we’ve seen this year. With 2½ months left to go in 2010, I feel confident “Winter’s Bone” will have a place among my Top 10.

This sharp, authentic drama from director and writer (with Anne Rossellini) Debra Granik still grips me. From the spot-on, Oscar-caliber performances from Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes to the severe beauty of the Missouri terrain that frames the characters, “Winter’s Bone” bleeds its way into an audience’s soul.

Lawrence plays Ree Dolly, a smart, willful teenager who dropped out of school to look after her younger siblings and mentally impaired mother. They survive the cold in a ramshackle cabin, relying on squirrel meat and the charity of neighbors.

One day the sheriff shows up to inform Ree her drug addict father has jumped bail after putting the family plot up for collateral. If he doesn’t show, they’ll be put out.

Much of the plot is taken up with Ree’s journey, on foot, to visit her scattered kinfolks in search of her dad. Suspicious of outsiders — even those with whom they share blood — the mountain people are unwilling to help beyond the offer of a little cash and menacing warnings.

Even her uncle Teardrop (Hawkes), who’s feared by lawman and criminal alike, rejects her pleas for help — at first.

Expect “Winter’s Bone” to show up on a lot of critics’ lists.

Video extras — the same for DVD and Blu-ray editions — are terrific, and easily turn this disc from a rental to must-buy.

Granik and cinematographer Michael McDonough team up for an excellent feature-length commentary track. They talk not just about how they composed individual shots, but touch again and again on the happenstance that continually blessed the production.

A number of the principle actors were non-professionals they ran into and cast in the film. In the 43-minute making-of documentary, William White is asked on his last day of shooting what he’ll do next. The next morning, he says, he’ll head back to his factory job as a wirecutter.

The same feature also includes audition footage for several of the actors, which is intercut with the final scene from the movie — thrilling stuff.

There’s also an alternate opening sequence, four deleted scenes, theatrical trailer, links to songs and musicians featured in the film, and a lovely musical sequence set to “Hardscrabble Elegy,” the main theme composed by Dickon Hinchliffe.

The lack of a digital copy is the only downside.

Movie: 4.5 Yaps

Extras : 4.5 Yaps

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Winter’s Bone Wed, 28 Jul 2010 04:01:15 +0000 Continue reading ]]>
“Winter’s Bone” has a sharp authenticity like a leather strap to the face on a marrow-freezing night. It’s a bracing, thrilling cinematic experience — its tragic charms are not to be missed.

Watching this mesmerizing drama from director Debra Granik, which she co-wrote with Anne Rosellini based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell, I’m reminded of “Frozen River,” another stark indie about a rural woman pushed to extremes by looming destitution.

Except in this film, the heroine is not even full-grown.

Ree Dolly is a 17-year-old wise beyond her years — a necessity when you’ve dropped out of school to raise your younger siblings because your father has run off to cook meth and your mother has absorbed so much heartbreak, there’s only a shell of a woman left.

Jennifer Lawrence plays Ree in a performance with weight and conviction. Despite her unlined face, she lends Ree a weary, aged soul.

Early on, there’s a scene where she wanders through her old high school, peering in on the home ec classes and ROTC drills she’s left behind. It’s a wordless, wistful look back over the shoulder for a girl who’s been robbed of decisions about her own life. There are no forks in her road ahead.

At their ramshackle home, Ree’s brother watches their neighbor butchering a deer and wonders if he should ask for some meat. “Never ask for what ought to be offered,” she instructs.

Ree’s glum, dirt-poor existence is at least stable, until the sheriff (Garret Dillahunt) arrives with the news that her father Jessup has jumped bail after putting the family home and plot up for collateral. If he doesn’t show up in court, they lose what little they have.

Hedged in by the cloistered countryfolk, with their secretive ways and ancient codes of honor, Ree has little choice but to go around knocking on doors asking after her dad. Many of these terse, unhelpful encounters are with fellow Dollys, and she learns that if blood is thicker than water, it doesn’t always flow as freely when it comes to familial kindness.

“Some of our blood at least is the same,” Ree says to one disobliging woman. “Ain’t that supposed to mean something?”

“Ain’t you got no man to do this?” the relation (a solid Dale Dickey) responds.

This exchange highlights a key aspect of Ree’s world: Women are automatically assumed to be subservient to men. They’re caretakers and gatekeepers to their husbands and brothers. It’s something even smart ones like Ree accept without question — it’s baked into the family bread.

At one point Ree is beaten to a pulp for her transgressions, and when her uncle, Teardrop, shows up to claim her, the only question he asks is to make certain that only women laid hands on her, not men. This, by the way, is the same uncle who choked Ree a day earlier.

The implication is that among their kind, violence against women is perfectly acceptable as long as it’s kept in the family.

Teardrop is played by John Hawkes in a layered performance of veiled menace, and something else hidden even deeper.

Despite seeming small and spindly, Teardrop’s reputation is such that lawman and drug kingpin alike take a step back when they see him coming. Teardrop is aware of their fear, cradles and nurtures it, and wields it when necessary; he accepts who he is without relishing the brutality that often travels with him. It’s an Oscar-caliber turn.

What I admired most about Granik’s approach is that she never for a moment looks down on these people. Though Ree may shoot squirrels to put meat on the table, and be ashamed of her father’s involvement in drugs, there’s a stubborn pride that runs through like a backbone.

With all the cold receptions she receives on doorstep after doorstep, the only time she becomes offended is when it’s suggested she might talk to the authorities about the family business. And when someone claims her father blew up a meth lab, Ree responds with indignation: “He’s known for knowing what he’s doing.”

“Winter’s Bone” is a film that knows what it’s doing, and does it with chilling expertise.

4.5 Yaps

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