This has to be the best movie of 2010 that no one saw, including me. I finally had the chance to watch it last weekend, and oh boy, did I miss out last year.
Its simply the most complete experience you will have watching a movie, this year or last. There is nothing wasted, not a scene, a character, nor a piece of dialogue. Every single moment in the movie exists to propel the narrative forward in some way, but its not rushed. Instead its patient, calm, quiet and dripping with so much visual detail, it feels more like a documentary than a neo-noir redneck detective story set in Southern Missouri. Its Fucking fantastic.
The basic premise: 17 year old girl must find her meth cooking father and get him to his court date or they lose the house, which he put up for collateral on his bail. The dad is a sort of, meth chef genius, and she has to traverse this particular underworld while she searches for her dad, dead or alive.
A lot has been written about this movie, far better than I ever could articulate, but I really have to point out the work of John Hawkes as Uncle Tear Drop. He’s the kind of actor who’s name you might not know, but when he pops up in something you kind of go, “Hey, I know that guy. Remember, he was in…?”
His performance completely embodies what the film is trying to accomplish: he can be quiet, pensive, wise, but prone to violent outbursts that puts everyone at risk. Tear Drop is always teetering on the edge of madness, or brilliance, and its this balancing act that literally keeps you guessing from the moment he appears, to when he finally makes his exit.
Hawkes is nominated for Best Supporting Actor (the flick has 4 or 5 Oscar nods) and he likely won’t win. But so what. You’ll never look at him the same after you see this. The dude can fucking act, something that I hadn’t really noticed before.
Based on a novel, Winter’s Bone would be the movie I use to teach my film study class about not only adapting material, but writing for the screen, production design, acting, dialogue, costume design and making every moment count. There’s an entire lesson plan within the confines of the opening and closing credits, and it packs so much of a whallup, I can’t imagine this being anything other than career defining for everyone involved.
Finally, there’s a lot can be said about the world depicted in Winter’s Bone, but I’ll leave it at this: not everyone is really living in the 21st Century, and there are still places in the country that are so foreign, so alien, its almost like not being in America at all. Even though its a piece of fiction, the movie gives us a glimpse into that world, and goddamn it, its pretty scary.
Also, as a side note, Frozen River is a movie that’s sort of similar in its approach, and features great acting and a strong central female character that goes hand in hand with this. The two movies definitely feel like they exist within the same universe, if notsimilar poverty levels, despite taking place and opposite ends of the country.