Sunday, July 25, 2010

Thrilled At the Movies

Almost always, my favorite movies are not SF. There is a reason for this: SF movies, even when they contain strong ideas and characters, often get seduced away from them by a fascination with special effects, endless fight scenes, and dramatic car chases (witness INCEPTION).

WINTER'S BONE has no car chases. It barely has any cars. Also no video games, cell phones, or night-vision goggles. There may have been a brief glimpse of a TV. What WINTER'S BONE has is people -- striving, feeling, and desperate people. This is not a cheerful movie, but it is a very real one, and its unknown young star, Jennifer Lawrence, is amazing.

[WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!]

Lawrence plays Ree, a seventeen-year-old girl living in the ass end of the world somewhere in Appalachia or the Ozarks. Her mother is too mentally ill to function, she has a little brother and sister, and her father has disappeared. Ree has to find him or the family, barely surviving as is, will lose its land and pehaps even starve. Ree is kin to everybody for miles around, but her clan alternates between helping her and warning her off, sometimes violently. Ree knows why, and we gradually learn why, too -- the entire clan survives by operating meth labs. The law knows this as well, and they would also like to find Ree's daddy. If all this sounds like another set-up for complicated double games and shoot-outs, it's not. Ree's kin know where he is, both she and the law knows they know, and only torn loyalties and potential betrayals are in operation, not con games. It's more than enough. This movie is about courage and desperation and the ties of blood, and it is terrific. Not for the faint-hearted, but I can't recommend it highly enough.

And young Jennifer Lawrence is Oscar material.

5 comments:

Brenda Cooper said...

I also blogged about it - see http://www.brenda-cooper.com. I now have the book as well, and the movie is so true to the book the same lines are used (yes, there are differences - but not many).
It makes me think of you talking about writing in scenes. This book is written in scenes. It's as good as the movie.

CedricD_Mccloud07043.3 said...

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bluesman miike Lindner said...

Yeah, Nancy, I know you were only "conflicted" towards INCEPTION. But you hadn't posted about movies in a long time. And maybe sunny, cheery Seattle suits you so well you'll never be cranky again. And here's Little Blues, whose heart was hurt so bad that nobody ever wrote a song for you, my old writing teacher. So I had lyric #108 ready to go, and figured I'd better post it while the posting was good.

'Cause I want to have written a thousand lyrics before they spade me under.

Otherwise...my life might be in vain... (Weeping emoticon here)

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JKessel said...

For some reason Winter's Bone, which I wanted to like, did not move me particularly. Despite the incredibly real sense of place and character and the fine acting.

I feel the movie ended up valorizing that way of life, and the patriarchal "honor culture" that it's based on. A culture where the women, yes, have to be remarkably strong and resourceful--like both the protagonist and her "aunt" who is her adversary/savior--but in the end it's all about keeping that same code involate And the code itself is not really questioned.

When the sheriff stops Teardrop and the girl on the road at night, and Teardrop and the sheriff have their mano-a-mano masculinity contest, which Teardrop wins when the sheriff drives off, I don't see any hint that the movie questions this entire state of affairs, where masculinity is defined by who is more willing to risk murder and death. At the end, when the girl comes to the station to see the sheriff and and save the home, it's clear that the sheriff, because he did not stand up to Teardrop, is less of a man.

THAT's the problem with our society, in my opinion. That definition of masculinity is what I have spent a lot of my creative life fighting. Yet it rules the world, and despite its sympathies and complex characters, I don't think Winter's Bone challenges that status quo.

Maybe it's not fair for me to ask it to. I'm only speaking for my personal reaction. And I am hardly consistent, since this same macho culture will get by me in many other works that I approve.

Thanks for making me think, as always, Nancy.

John