I finally got around to seeing Debra Granik's critically
acclaimed (95% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes;
90 on Metacritic ) "Winter's
Bone," an adaptation of Daniel Woodrell's novel, and I had a couple of reactions.
The first was: how nice that another woman joins the ranks
of this year's touted independent directors along with Lisa Cholodenko and
Nicole Holofcener. My second thought, however, was: what a phony pile of condescending
stereotypes and clichés.
It's the story of Ree,
a backwoods teenaged girl (Jennifer
Lawrence, putting in a fine performance, as does John Hawkes, despite the material),
who needs to
find her bail-skipping, meth-cooking, no-account Pa before the authorities take
over their meager property (actually, what with their hundred acres of timber,
she could sell it off and come off rather nicely) to cover the forfeited bond.
Except for the girl, just about everyone in the movie over
the age of ten is a loathsome, inbred, ciminally inclined lout. The only person with
all his teeth and all his marbles is the Army recruiting sergeant, who wisely
advises the girl not to sign up for Afghanistan but stay home and take care of
her feral siblings and her catatonic mother. And find a scriptwriter with a bit
more empathy and insight.
If she rejected his advice and went anyway, she'd probably end up
like the PTSD vet in Ryan Piers Williams's "The Dry Land,"
which I'm at the
moment reviewing. He returns from Iraq
to his backwoods Texas
home where his psychological problems are exacerbated by the fact that
everybody else is as fucked up as he is. In short, they are all variations on
the hillbilly clichés in "Winter's Bone."
It seems to me that the Redneck Melodrama has become a staple of
indie filmmaking, going back at least to 2008's "Frozen River"
(80 on Metacritic;
87% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes).
Other recent films that fall into the genre are "Crazy Heart,"
"That Evening Sun,"
"The Killer Inside Me," Robert Duvall in
No wonder rural, lower class people hate Hollywood limousine liberals. At least on
the screen, it seems a lot of these would be do-gooders treat poor,
down-and-out white people with varying degrees of patronization or contempt.
Oh, for the good old days of "The Beverly Hillbillies!"