Movie: Winter’s Bone

This won the Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival – and yeah, I’ll add my vote as well.

Since I grouse a lot about heroines doing things in movies that women generally can’t do, it’s a genuine pleasure to be able to report on a film with a realistic heroine you can actually cheer for.  What Winter’s Bone is, in fact, is a tough guy detective story in which the tough guy happens to be a 17-year-old Ozark Mountain girl stuck taking care of her siblings and crazy mom.  The detective’s case:  she has to find her missing father because he’s put their house up as bail and her family will be homeless if he skips.  If you imagine the girl as Philip Marlowe, you’ll see what I mean about the standard detective story plot unspooling scene for scene.  But it’s rendered fresh and thoroughly involving by its hillbilly characters and locale.

The cast (some of them actually Ozark locals) is good enough, but the real star of the show is indie director Debra Granik, plus her screenwriting partner Anne Rosellini, plus, for all I know, Daniel Woodrell, the guy who wrote the novel it’s based on but which I haven’t read.  It’s the storytelling, in other words, that compels you.  It’s very cooly constructed and completely gripping.  I had a grouse about the climax in which the heroine suddenly becomes a bit of a passive player, but all in all, this is a powerful, original and moving crime story; my sort of thing.  Wish there were more like it.

And with that, I’m taking off on vacation until after Labor Day.  I’ve set this blogging gizmo to put up a fresh Klavan on the Culture every day, choosing episodes I thought got less of an audience than they deserved.  Study these closely as there will be a test when I return.  Enjoy the rest of the summer.

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  • Edward Lee

    Enjoy your break, Mr. Klavan. I am loving Empire of Lies, BTW. Though you are a little hard on one of my childhood heros, William Shat-that Piersall character. He reminds me of someone, can’t think of who.

  • John C. Wright

    Let me also add my wishes for your good vacation, Mr. Klavan, and tell you that I enjoyed EMPIRE OF LIES more than any other thriller I’ve read.

    Imagine my surprise and delight when I found this picture of my wife’s latest novel (she writes science fiction) sharing the shelf space under the title “famous authors” with you. I hope you are pleased rather than annoyed to be sharing a bookshelf with admirers.

  • The Arse Man

    Just saw WINTER’S BONE and can confirm Mr. Klavan’s good opinion of it. I’ll only add that the heroine’s “bit of passivity” in the climax makes sense to me as she is only seventeen and by that part of the film has been through the emotional wringer….