Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) has this doll-shaped, pristine face that makes her look like a model for a Renaissance painting – she’s not in the cover of the September issue of W for nothing. Yet she evokes a working class toughness through her looks and performance. The latter can also be said the population of this heroine’s small town setting in the Ozarks, most of whom like hey could be related to Charles Manson, most of whom are distantly related to Ree.
I haven’t seen everything under the American Neo Realist canon – does The Wrestler count? Nonetheless, Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone shows what we can expect from the genre – messy living spaces, our heroine Ree who has to take care of children through tough love, the heroine who knows that opportunity is difficult to reach and tries anyway. Then there’s the dangerous hurdle in front of her – having to look for her father or else she’ll lose her house. Within that major plot point comes the portrayal of an honour code in her drug-ridden community that separates her from her elders – yes, elders.
Winter’s Bone is also one of the most climactic example within a genre that chooses minimal and super subtle emotions. Don’t mistake me, there’s economical dialogue here too, but every word in the script has a kick. There are also scenes like when her own uncle Teardrop threatens her. His hand comes from nowhere and that tense moment is captured through film that I’ve probably never seen before.
Supporting cast includes Garret Dillahunt, bit player in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Dale Dickey, the hooker/Betty White’s daughter in “My Name is Earl,” in a chilling performance.