Not Even Remotely Funny

by

This is another review of a movie I saw months ago. I wrote about half of this review shortly after I saw the film but am just getting around to posting it. If there are any references that seem a little funny time-wise I apologize.

Some of you know I hit the art house for a showing of Winter’s Bone last week. I’d seen a couple of trailers for it but that was all I knew. It was glorious. I think I’ve rarely been so satisfied by a film.

Briefly, the story takes place in a small town deep in the Ozarks. A 17-year-old girl cares for her two younger siblings and her mother who seems to have had some kind of mental breakdown in connection with her father’s disappeareance. One day, the brooding sheriff, played by the always riveting Garret Dillahunt, appears to inform her that her father has a court date coming up and if he misses it the family will lose their home which he put up for collateral on his bond. The girl, Ree, proceeds to work her methodical way through the incestuously linked county in search of her wayward father.

Though it might seem superficial the thing I feel deserves the most praise is the casting of this piece. It seems to be a blend of professional actos of the highest caliber and local inhabitants of the small Ozark town. The text puts plenty of emphasis on the intricate family connections. It would have been easy to let that do the work and go for ability rather than a look. Yet every character on the screen shares a jaw line or hair color of slant of the eye that screams, “We hang off branchs of the same tree!” It’s touches like this, the on-location shoot and the skinny, mangy animals that pepper the landscape that make it easy to drop into the cold, bitter, unforgiving world. Almost too easy because at times you wish you could climb right out

We see a lot, of course, of Jennifer Lawrence who plays Ree and an almost equal amount of the fabulous Jon Hawkes as her uncle, Teardrop. These are performances so seamless and engaging that you sit on the edge of your seat waiting to see what happens next. They aren’t predictable in any way while never making the tiniest mis-step away from their characters’ intentions. With support from Lauren Sweetser as Ree’s best friend and a few others it would be a fine movie and we wouldn’t feel anything was mising.

And yet, there’s Dale Dickey. Sweet mother of every nightmare that has ever drenched you in the sweat of the damned, there’s Dale Dickey. Now Queen of the Devil’s Minions is kind of Dickey’s stock in trade. You’ll recognize her from her many guest spots and short arcs on popular television series. I recently spotted her in one of her Breaking Bad episodes and even a few minutes of her on screen made me want a shower. Winter’s Bone’s creators crafted a world that is equal parts The Lottery and The Stand. These people are desperate and hungry in every sense one can be. Dickey’s Merab is a woman who sees that the only way out of this hellmouth is through it. She’s learned every twisted, corrosive rule and plays by each one with Olympic precision. She is both what Ree fears and aspires to and by the time Dickey has finished trussing her audience up we don’t know which we root for more.

Winter’s Bone is not a film for the faint of heart. You won’t leave the theatre feeling buoyant and thrilled. You will, however, feel you’ve truly gone on a journey like no other. And you’ll be glad you emerged with your life.

Jennifer Lawrence deserves every accolade she’s getting in and awards season that sports some of the closer races I’ve ever seen. However, if John Hawkes and Dale Dickey are ignored then it’s just another item entered into evidence that all of these high profile awards are about something other than pure, unadulterated talent being wielded like a precision surgical instrument.

You have been warned.

 

Kizz writes at 117 Hudson and Kizz & Tell. Every time you comment on one of her posts an angel gets its wings.

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6 Responses to “Not Even Remotely Funny”

  1. Wendi Says:

    Well done, Kizz! You really nailed the movie, esp. the casting. At times it felt like a documentary because you felt so sucked into their world. I can’t wait to watch it again.

  2. kizzbeth Says:

    It’s one of those where I desperately want to see it again and yet really don’t want to. What if it isn’t as good the second time? (Impossible!) And, more importantly, wow that was painful and creepy! As much as I’m terrified of the character, though, I could watch Dale Dickey’s parts over and over and over. She’s so cold and yet you understand so completely why and have to sort of admire her for it. Brrrrr!

  3. Mrs. Chili Says:

    I have picked up – and then put down – the novel about a dozen times in the book store. I think, given the strength of your review, I’m going to pick it up one last time.

  4. kizzbeth Says:

    I’m interested in reading it, too. I’ve heard that both items, while surely different, are arresting.

  5. bethany Says:

    Looks painful, but worth it … couldn’t figure out why I recognized Dale Dickey until I looked up the link, I’ve been (ahem) watching season 1 of My Name Is Earl lately and she plays Patti, love her!

  6. kizzbeth Says:

    I’ve wondered if I should watch My Name Is Earl and Dale Dickey sounds like a pretty big point in its favor. She’s really wonderful.

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