Meth labs, child neglect, chill weather, cattle shows, Cardinal’s regalia, squirrel hunting, military aspirations, yards full of trucks, bales of hay and barbed wire, framed pictures of cats, bad roots and worse facial hair.
Yup, “Winter’s Bone,” already being declared one of the best films of the year so far, is definitely set in my adopted home state of Missouri. It won the top prize at Sundance this year.
Ree Dolly is a young girl in the Ozarks who’s become a rather self-sufficient parent to her younger siblings in lieu of their mentally absent mother and physically absent father. When she learns that her dad, who until recently was serving a jail sentence for drug production, put up their home for bail and then skipped town, she has no choice but to hunt him down through his unsavory relatives and coconspirators. Her questions stir up a hornet’s nest. The resulting nightmare is film noir served Missouri-style.
Jennifer Lawrence is superb in the central role and the supporting cast is memorably colorful without sacrificing the degree of development and realism necessary to avoid the usual ‘evil hillbilly’ clichés. The plot builds with just the right level of mounting suspense and foreboding and plays out like a Coen brothers film without the amused detachment.
Daniel Woodrell, author of the source novel, has previously had his novel “Woe to Live On” adapted by Ang Lee as “Ride with the Devil” (released by Criterion this April).