Jul 20, 2010

Movie Review: Winter's Bone

Winter's Bone:

Is there anything lofty or even fundamentally human about a primitive mountain code? A clan’s code? Where are the boundaries between the individual and any group, from family to neighbor to law enforcement? Where do loyalty, love, and submission intersect? Where does the changing role of women fit into all of that? In the mountains? Well, mebbe.

Set in the Missouri Ozarks, Winter’s Bone is a must see. Ree Dolly, a 17-year-old girl, is the heroine (not merely a protagonist, but a bona fide heroine). She’s the caretaker for her 11- and 6-year-old siblings and lives in a rundown mountain home with her demented mother.

Despite her courage, Ree asks for nothing more, but the law will not leave her alone with the little she has. Her father, Jesup, busted again for creating “crank,” something like crystal meth, has put up the property as security against his court appearance a few days hence. Will he show, or will he leave his family to fend for themselves while he lights out for the territory? Yes, this might be the darker flip side of a Huck Finn journey.

The adult males in these hills have names like Teardrop, Jesup, and Thump. The country-fi-cation could be too much, but I fell for it big time, and I predict most viewers will. If the characters don’t get you, the landscape will—or the music. Listen for very nice renderings of “Farther Along” and “Come All Ye Fair and Tender Maidens,” by Meredith Sisco. There’s other music, but I really heard those two.

Rewriting Faulkner or Flannery O’Connor (especially "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" or “Good Country People”?) is risky business. We owe so much to those giants of the past, and it’s so easy to cross one line into cynicism about country folk as mere critters, or that other line, into romanticizing them, that one wonders why any artist takes the chance.

There must be something big, maybe some fundamentally human thing, in the rural American South to make it worth revisiting so often. Winter’s Bone is one more reason to hope superb writers and film makers keep trying.

Apparently it’s hard to find Winter’s Bone in theaters, and I have no idea whether phone calls to your local Roxy will help. But it’s worth a try. There will be talk about this as best movie of the year or the decade.

On another note, beyond Altadenahiker and Ken Mac's recent interest in rodents, is there a reason for today’s second photo? Oh, I ‘xpect. See the movie.



Unknown said...

The Moon
on a cat


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- Peter Ingestad, Sweden

gothpunkuncle said...

I'll try to check the film out. The questions it sparked reminded me of a recent student essay about living way off the grid in a Hawaiian commune, staying in tents and hunting wild goats. I love when the young'uns have the strength of their convictions. In other rural news, I learned "Shady Grove," thanks, in part to Brenda's suggestion to check out Doc Watson. I always thought and and Doc Pomus were the same person. The things you don't learn n Banjo 101...

Banjo52 said...

GPU, glad you and Brenda communicated.
I'd never heard of Doc Pomus, but I did just google him. Amazing that someone who composed so many hit songs is not a household name.

Ditto on youth with convictions. Or anybody, for that matter--though I'm a better cheerleader than doer. Dewars, only the other hand . . .

Pasadena Adjacent said...

It's true about the names. It took years for me to learn that Uncle Charlie was really David, Uncle Butch was Albert. Even Ramona is called Mocho.

You might enjoy this post. It's theme related

Brenda's Arizona said...

Living in western Tennessee for my high school years, my classmates had great names. There was Brother Dunavant (his real name) and several "Juniors", a couple 'Bubbas' (one with the surname Jessup!) and a Delorise... just a treasure trove of names for the next Tennessee Williams plots.

This movie is on my list if it comes around or hits Netflix. Thanks!

Banjo52 said...

GPU and Brenda, you might be interested in the next post (July 21 post).

Anonymous said...

So what did Brenda think?

Brenda's Arizona said...

Banjomyn, saw the movie. I am haunted. I am not sure I heard the music, but the story and the characters are haunting me.

Ree? Awesome young lady. I was so afraid for her so much of the movie! It was hard not to step back and put myself in her shoes. How will she ever escape that life???

The frustration of trying to prove her father's whereabouts - or lack of 'em - is mirrored so lovely in Ree's walks from shack-house to shack-house. It was also an interesting commentary on their society when the 'girls' rough Ree up, not the men. And when the girls save Ree's need for proof...
That whole swamp/lake scene was so breath-holding!

When Ree's brother admits that he thought Ree was leaving them - WOW. It was a kick in the head that he, too, had fears.

And all the dogs!? I hurt for them, their ribs showing, their cold nights tied outside.

I am sure this movie would be the same whether adapted to gangs in Los Angeles or Phoenix, human traffic-smugglers along the Mexico border, or in the bayou of Louisiana.

After the movie, my friend and I rode home in silence. When I dropped her off at her house, she only said "I liked this."

I have her back. She has mine. We never let each other down. We could have been in the movie.

Brenda's Arizona said...

As always, I have a follow up thought. Have you seen the OLD movie "Walking Tall" with Joe Don Baker? The county my family lived in when I was in high school was near Buford Pusser's home county, McNairy County, TN. We all lived in awareness and fear of the bootleggers and their enforcers.
The movies' stories almost parallel each other in the underground society that exists in both Winter's Bone and in Walking Tall (the original).

Walking Tall was very true to life. Is Winter's Bone true to form, too?

OK, now I will go back to the deeps of the desert...

Banjo52 said...

Brenda, I think you really did see that movie. What a great response. Thanks. I'm relieved.

I bet you're right about other subcultures.

PA and Brenda, I can't match your names from my youth--just 3 Wilburs and a D.D. However, I had some southern in-laws: Bud, Bubba, Wootsie, Daddy Jack, Big Daddy . . .

Lovers' Lane