The Hill: Winter's Bone
by Alex Zuckerman
The Chances We Take
The nature of the film industry has relegated rural America to a symbolic representation of itself. Coastal elites retire to the back country only to make some larger political point about the country as a whole. Small-town poverty is far less compelling than urban decay, if only for its less compelling visual elements. While films like The Deer Hunter and Harlan County, PA made heroes of the heartland, they did so to score political points. White trash are never just allowed to be white trash - they are forced to stand for something more, and usually come off as cartoonish or pathetic. Debra Granik's Winter's Bone avoids these cliches, instead revealing a compelling narrative set in an undiscovered country. A double-winner at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Winter's Bone brings a regional familiarity and genuine soul that proves why small, smart independents remain indispensable to American film.
Jennifer Lawrence plays Ree Dolly, a 17-year-old girl saddled with caring for her two younger siblings and catatonic mother. When the Sheriff (Garrett Dillahunt) informs her that her dad Jessup has skipped out on his bond, the meager existence eked out by the Dollys is threatened. Her family and home hanging in the balance, Ree must find her father, dead or alive. She sets out on foot across a landscape last seen in John Hillcoat's adaptation of The Road; burned out cars dot decaying forests, while weeds over take derelict houses.
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