Ever been on a road trip and you make that decision to exit the freeways and travel some back roads of this fine country of ours? There you are, cruising through rolling hills, past babbling brooks, congratulating yourself for not idly accepting the interstate experience by embracing the nooks and crannies of the good ol’ U.S. of A. All of a sudden, there is a shift in the good vibes of the road trip, and you begin to notice more cars sitting on cinderblocks or rusted refrigerators in the front yards. The houses get more ramshackle, the “quaint” cafes on the side of the road become more menacing, and you and your crew decide the interstate isn’t that bad after all.
Winter’s Bone takes place entirely in a place like this. Yeah, Winter’s Bone is released in the summer, but it feels weird to call this a summer movie. Let’s just say that this probably won’t be nominated for any MTV Movie Awards next year, although the star is a young lady from The Bill Engvall Show. You know, The Bill Engvall Show? I didn’t either, but I should probably check it out if it farms talent like the lead here. Her name is Jennifer Lawrence, and she plays a teenager named Ree who looks out for her incapacitated mom and two younger siblings. See, her dad, a meth cook/dealer, is MIA, although before he disappeared, he put the house and land that Ree and her fam live on up for bail. If Ree can’t find her dad in the next week or so, they lose their property.
More than that will spoil the way the movie unfolds. John Hawkes, who is juuuust about ready to play Charles Manson, is Ree’s uncle Teardrop, and he moves between scary and sympathetic, usually within the same scene.
Hawkes has been in movies and TV forever (he was Sol on Deadwood), but this is his move into the next level of acting wizardry. I’m not sure if this will be remembered in February, but both he and JLaw should be thought about in terms of Oscar nods. I love that expression- Oscar nod.
So… not sure how this movie can sell itself, except for the fact that everyone who sees it says its great. I can’t imagine how they could even cut together a trailer that makes it look appealing. I will say this- this movie sticks with you. To use the road trip analogy again, this is the healthy, home-cooked meal that you crave after eating a steady diet of fast food for days. Oh, and I do look forward to the release of Summer’s Bone, which will inevitably be released this winter.