One of the first movies to receive Oscar buzz this year, Winter's Bone was released over the summer without much fanfare - but lots of critical praise. Coming to DVD and Blu-Ray on October 26, Winter's Bone features an intriguing story and star-making performance by Jennifer Lawrence. Unfortunately, the movie itself fails to live up to the hype. "Good but not great" is the name of the game.
In Winter's Bone, 17-year old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) is approached one day by the local sheriff (Garrett Dillahunt) and told that her meth-selling father put her family's house up for bail and hasn't been seen since. If he doesn't show for his court date in a week's time, the house will be confiscated and her family thrown out into the cold. Already struggling for money and food to feed her two younger siblings and ailing mother, Ree Dolly puts it upon herself to track down her deadbeat dad - or at least find proof that he's dead. As she digs deeper, she crosses paths with her father's unsavory friends who don't like some girl snooping around in their business.
Directed and co-written by Debra Granik, based on a novel by Daniel Woodrell, Winter's Bone is a beautifully shot crime drama that paints a group of morally complex characters against a bleak, cold and unforgiving landscape. The movie is less a thriller than it is a drama about the limits of family relationships and the complexities of human nature, and in this regard it delivers.
The movie features fine performances by John Hawkes ("Deadwood") and, more notably, Jennifer Lawrence, whose next major role is Mystique in the upcoming X-Men: First Class. Lawrence's tough-as-nails performance probably won't garner her much awards attention at the end of the year, but her subtly fierce portrayal is worth watching. If Winter's Bone is any indication, Lawrence has a promising career ahead of her.
Winter's Bone is very good, but its biggest problem is that it can't live up to the hype. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize and Best Screenplay at the Sundance Film Festival, the movie should be amazing, but it's simply good. Expectations can destroy great movies and that played a part here; I was expecting a more suspense-based story, but Winter's Bone is at times slow and overly methodical in its delivery. The movie is about Ree Dolly and her goals and motivations, not about her solving a crime or bring anyone to justice. As a result, Winter's Bone feels incomplete and anticlimactic.
Winter's Bone is a good movie and is worth seeing for its bleak direction and excellent performance by Lawrence, but fails to live up to expectations.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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