The critically acclaimed film “Winter’s Bone” is a tensely atmospheric pot boiler that suffers from too much build up and not enough pay out.
The original story, fully realized setting and acting are very good but the film is also weighed down with a glacial story pacing and disappointing resolutions. Film critics love “Winter’s Bone” but it is not likely to be embraced by general audiences.
Seventeen year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) lives at home, spending most of her energy tending to the needs of her two siblings and disabled mother. After her methamphetamine-dealing father skips bail, Ree is forced to navigate through the seedy underbelly of her rural town.
She must uncover the truth of her father’s disappearance or lose her family’s property to a corrupt legal system. Along the way, she must confront her father’s bail bondsman, disgruntled cousins, violent meth-heads, a sheriff and a vicious organized crime group, without getting herself killed.
Ree seems to be looking for a way out of her difficult lifestyle but her chances of accomplishing this result are slim. Her already bleak existence is worsened when her father doesn’t show up for his court date and his bail bondsman threatens to take her family’s’ house.
Another notable member of the cast is John Hawks as Ree’s tough guy uncle, Teardrop. The enigmatic Teardrop is her father’s brother, and an unpredictably violent man that has lived a hard life. Despite his emotional instability, Teardrop sometimes shows compassion for his brother’s neglected children and plays an integral part in solving his disappearance.
This film builds tension and establishes its universe in the beginning scenes. The rural town setting lends a unique quality to this film as Ree must deal with the town’s inhabitants to find her father. The meth addicts and gangsters that inhabit her poverty stricken world are misleading, aggressive and unpredictable.
However, the film doesn’t really progress anywhere interesting through these interactions. It rachets up the tension throughout every scene but never really concludes satisfactorily. After a strong but predictable second act that renews viewer’s faith, the plot quickly unravels into an abrupt ending with multiple loose threads left dangling.
“Winter’s Bone” is a boring disappointment with few redeeming qualities. The premise and original story hold a lot of potential, but the plot could have been executed better. The film should be praised for its tension-filled atmosphere and above average acting, but its lack of catharsis makes it feel like an exercise in suspense.
Audiences will have a tough time sitting patiently through this under-stimulating film.
Paisano rating D+