Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Feel the chill; see the film: Winter's Bone is brilliant.

If you think your life is hard—and who doesn’t once in a while—here’s an antidote: see Winter’s Bone, a dark tale set in the Ozark backwoods of Missouri. Briefly, the story centers on 17-year-old Ree Dolly who has to take care of two younger siblings and a mother who has been traumatized past a breaking point we are left to guess at. Ree’s father, Jessup, who makes his living cooking meth, was arrested and released on a bond. The story begins as we learn that if Jessup doesn’t appear in court, the family will lose their house. Most of the movie concerns Ree’s search for her father.

Most of us go to the movies to be entertained and, if they’re any good, most movies deliver entertainment in some measure. I’m no different usually. I saw Inception last weekend and it was entertaining. But I’m not blogging about that. Winter’s Bone is not a common movie. It doesn’t feel like a movie at all; it looks and feels too real to be fiction. Critics have even coined a new genre to describe it: “country-noir.” It’s an apt description.

The landscape we experience—“seeing” is too impersonal a word—in this film seems as foreign as the dark side of the moon. Every scene, no matter how ordinary the action, is imbued with impending violence. The acting is so realistic that it doesn’t seem like acting. Even minor characters are spot-on and, with the possible exception of the Sherriff, none come across as two dimensional. Ree and her uncle, Teardrop, are exceptional characters and complex people. The actual violence that does happen, as opposed to the constant potential for it, is kept off camera but the tension is, if anything, heightened by this.

This is a brilliant film. Don’t take my word for it. Google other reviews and check them out. It received the Grand Jury prize at the Sundance film festival. It’s playing at the Oriental Theater in Milwaukee. (Of course!)

Watch the trailer: Winter’s Bone.

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