Jennifer Lawrence has a Mulligan moment of her own. A Carey Mulligan, that is.
If 2009 was the year Carrey Mulligan became a star with An Education, then 2010 ought to the year Jennifer Lawrence ascends from obscurity to burgeoning stardom. With a major part in Jodie Foster’s The Beaver on the horizon, Lawrence shows off considerable acting chops in Winter’s Bone.
Based off the novel of the same name, Ree (Lawrence) is a teenager in a situation well beyond her years. Responsible for parenting her two younger siblings as well as taking care of her catatonic mother, the high school senior is wise beyond her years. When her meth-making father Jessup goes on the lamb after being caught making the drugs, putting up their home as collateral on a bond, Ree is given a week to find him or else become homeless. The film follows her through the Missouri Ozarks and the dregs of the Crystal Meth/Crank crowd as she determinedly seeks to find her father, dead or alive.
Moving at a methodical pace, Winter’s Bone is more about intensity and careful plotting; this is a film that gets us into the dirty, dirty world of the Ozarks and doesn’t give an inch in showing just how dirty it is. Debra Granik does a terrific job at setting up the film without making it campy or exploitative; she finds the right amount of grit to throw on it without making it a parody or comical. These are the parts of the world we acknowledge that exist but wouldn’t go anywhere near without a police escort.
But it’s Lawrence who shines throughout the film. Ree is a woman trapped in a girl’s body, mature well beyond her years, and Lawrence brings this out in her splendidly. It’s the look in her eyes as she deals with the situation in hand that seal it. No one treats her like a child because of the nature of her responsibilities and it’s a performance that’s a force of nature throughout the film. Lawrence takes what could be a role in an exploitation film and makes something more of it. Ree earns out sympathy for her situation without her being overly pathetic about it. It’s the difference between a character comically down on their luck, like in Precious, and a character doing the best they can do to do the right thing with their life. It’s a reserved, quiet sort of powerful acting that is extraordinary coming out of an actress with as little experience as Lawrence.
And much like Mulligan in An Education, this is the case of a great performance locked into a good film. Winter’s Bone drags, story wise, despite it’s rather slow place. This may be a character study as opposed to a plot driven film but when scenes and moments drag out much longer that it’s noticeable it gets bothersome.
Winter’s Bone is one of the year’s best independent films, however, in a year with a lot of strong independent cinema.
Director: Debra Granik Notable Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Dale Dickey, John Hawkes Writer(s): Debra Granik, Anne Rossellini
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.