I know I am in the minority on this, but the Best Picture nomination of Winter's Bone really perplexes me. Don't get me wrong, it's a pretty good film, with strong acting and cinematography that really captures the bleakness the film needs. I just think there were more Oscar worthy films this year and I don't think Winter's Bone was as good as it could have been.
The film follows the point of view of Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) as she tries to find her father and save her family from being evicted. It catalogues the awfulness of the crank industry in the Ozarks. Really bleak stuff. This is not a happy movie.
Before I get into the awards, here are some thoughts on why this film doesn't work for me. I know it's based on a novel and having not read it, I'm not sure how closely the script follows the book. So some of my criticism might be criticism of the novel as well, and frankly, I'm fine with that. First, it has moments of raw realism followed by moments of absurdity. A lot of people say Ree is too pretty to not already have a boyfriend and kids of her own, which is something that comes to mind if I'm to believe in the film's setting. But I can let that slide on account of this being an example of her strong character. But why on earth would the women risk taking her to where the body is instead of just leaving the hands on her front porch with a note? And I'm sorry, no sheriff would back down when a gun is raised to him like that. My second big issue is with the ending which I will discuss below.
Is it the Best Picture? Mark my words, I may never watch the Oscars again if this wins Best Picture. I'm serious. John Hawkes for Best Supporting Actor? He was very good, but no I don't think he stands a chance against Bale and Rush. Best Actress? Maybe. She might be a dark horse here but I'm pretty convinced this will go to Natalie Portman. Writing? Not a chance against the competition. Or again, I will boycott.
So the film had this slow (very, very slow) build towards a climax in which you expect the heroine to have to fight for what she wants. But then it's just handed to her (pun intended). The build just fizzles out and the movie's over. She even gets a little bonus money to help her out, which felt a bit over the top ridiculous. I just felt disappointed, like a big giant bow was tied on and it just didn't fit. And I get that it's about the "family" deciding to do the right thing under pressure, but it doesn't translate for me. Not when the film was about Ree. I didn't care about them, I cared about Ree and her battle.
According to Rotten Tomatoes, 95% of critics disagree with me, so maybe you'll like it. But I give it 3 out of 5.