I usually consider independent movies to be among the best out there. Although I appreciate high-budget releases too (many of my friends know how much I’ve raved about Inception), usually most movies on my top lists are movies that few people have really heard of. So when I hear about a movie like Winter’s Bone and look at its reviews, naturally I get really excited to see it. I look forward to it with great optimism and high expectations – after all, the reviews have been extraordinarily good, enough to make me think that maybe this would eventually be a breakout hit that I would get to see before it became popular, the Hurt Locker of this year, perhaps.
Oh, was I wrong. I was terribly, terribly wrong. I usually agree with critics (a good enough chunk of the time to have me value their opinions anyway), but this movie just has so many glaring flaws that I can’t really understand what could possibly be the appeal.
If you’re into movies with good acting, this one will certainly be enjoyable to you in some ways, if not others. The main character, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is compelling and really powerful, mostly due to her fantastic performance. All of the other characters are also good, if not particularly notable, and for this reason I’d definitely consider the acting the main draw of the movie.
Also, there are definitely some good, emotional moments in this movie that pack a punch, though they are few and far between. The characters, though mostly unappealing in their personalities (which is part of the point, not a criticism), can be part of some really powerful moments when they interact with each other.
So what’s the problem? The movie is unbelievably boring and incredibly foggy in its explanations of what actually happens. The movie is about a 17 year old girl named Ree whose mom is mentally unfit to take care of her children, so Ree takes over and takes on the responsibilities of raising them. Then one day, she finds out that her housing is in jeopardy due to the criminal activities of her father, who she needs to find to set things right. The story is basically her pursuit of the truth and the mysterious, violent characters she encounters along the way. Where this goes wrong is that the story doesn’t have any real sense of suspenseful progression. Ree goes from one crazy estranged relative to the next, each one being persistently and confusingly more violent and aggressive than the last, to a point where it seems excessively unrealistic. Then when you finally find out what happened to Ree’s father, it’s still a bit hard to be sure of quite why. The movie asks relatively few questions in its overly long running time, but the ones it chooses to ask are not ones it choose to answer coherently.
I was able to piece together the ending by filling in some of the blanks, but I feel like it needs to be better organized and more clear to make any sense to the viewer (also, there are some strange moments like a black and white montage of a squirrel, which still make no sense to me).
Once again, the acting in this movie is very good, but strong acting can never save a bad movie from being a bad movie. I feel like this caters more to the pretentious movie crowd than anyone else, as it’s certainly not one that will be accepted by the general population. I think this movie might have been good if it were a short film (about a third of its length at most) but as it stands, there’s just too much of nothing here. I enjoy slow movies, but usually a movie earns its slow pace with interesting dialogue and details to savor in every shot. This is not one of them, as I saw no redeeming quality in its need to move at a snails pace, and instead feel like it was meant to stretch the length of this minimalist story to that of a feature-length movie. If you want to see a good slow, sad movie, watch 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, a devastating foreign film about abortion. It’s also really slow, but unbelievably powerful, unlike this. And unfortunately, though I see that the reviews are good, I have no idea why, because this movie is one to suffer through, not enjoy. The acting gives it a couple points, but not enough to make it even close to enjoyable.