Picky Boy’s Review of Winter’s Bone

Picky Boy in New York City here! Thanks to Picky Girl for asking me to jump in and contribute a post here and there this summer.

There has always been a reverence in my filmlover heart for independent film. When I saw Jim Sheridan’s In America, I experienced my first involuntary standing ovation in a movie theater. I still gush over Junebug (starring Amy Adams) & rave about Lonergan’s You Can Count on Me as though it came out this year.

Before you read on, let it be known…let it resound from the New York City rooftops: I love independent film.

So when I heard whispers of a small film receiving accolades and awards (It won the 2010 Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, for goodness sakes!), I knew I had to see the movie. I called a couple friends, hopped on the 1 train to Lincoln Center and bought a ticket for Winter’s Bone.

If you are one of those people who can’t get enough of a monochromatic color scheme or if watching boots traipse through a leafy forest for roughly 20% of a film really does it for you…then by all means, see this film. I, for one, wish I could turn back the clock, take that $13 (ridiculous, I know) and redistribute it for a plate of General Tso’s chicken across the street at Ollie’s…ah, well. Choices.

Winter’s Bone, based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell, centers around a 17-year-old girl named Ree Dolly (played by newcomer Jennifer Lawrence) on a backwoods odyssey trying to find her meth-cookin’ deadbeat father. If you’re a clinically-depressed individual without the will to live amidst the civilized and you’re looking for a place to summer but the Hamptons seems a bit too trendy or Fire Island just isn’t your style…try the Ozarks. Director Debra Granik paints a picture of possibly the worst place to reside in America. I’m pretty sure the zip code is just some fingernail scratches and a blood smear.

From the opening shot of two children jumping on a trampoline in a yard peppered with old toys and rusty farm equipment to the horrific climax, Winter’s Bone is saturated with an unrelenting bleakness that left me exhausted, not impressed…frustrated, not empathetic.

Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone

For a film steeped in grit and extremely realistic subject matter (Yes, Virginia, there is a real Underground Meth-lab Circuit), it somehow came across as dramatic and borderline ridiculous. Some of the language was laughable and contrived. Though the motley crew of sallow-cheeked haggard people Ree visits during her search are undeniably and horrifyingly accurate;  even they seem to be playing dress up in an ill-fitting Mafia-like subculture. I am not that familiar with meth but if no teeth, a severe cheek implosion and an unexplainable craving for Mountain Dew is a result…I say Thanks, but No Thanks. (What drug makes you crave Sunkist and Haribo Gummie Bears?…because I must be doing a lot of it right now.)

A notable performance in the film is Dale Dickey’s intense portrayal of Merab. She aptly straddles the line of affectionate matron and crazy, Deliverance-esque monster as the wife of the meth circuit ‘boss’, Thump (who looks more like a leather daddy, decked out in leather and chains, than an intimidating Don of Meth).

Side Note: How has PETA not focused their crosshairs on this one yet?! There is a scene where you literally watch someone tear a squirrel apart. Tear it. Apart.

If you’re a positive review chaser, then you’ll probably end up seeing Winter’s Bone. But in my humble Picky Boy opinion, this film evokes a big lateral shake of the head and a slight shoulder shrug. I left the movie theater that night in need of a real pick-me-up, so I picked up some ice cream and popped in The Shining.


6 responses to “Picky Boy’s Review of Winter’s Bone

  • pickygirlfoodfilmfiction

    PETA is full of a bunch of sexists. I don’t rely on them too much.

    And you know how I love quiet movies where people rip squirrels apart and walk around in the snow in boots….zzzzzz.

  • iliana

    Hi Pickyboy – Thank you for the review (and warning)! I love indie films but this one, hmm, doesn’t really sound appealing and the squirrel scene. Yea, I think I’ll have to pass!

  • Collin


    Thanks for your unvarnished review of Winter’s Bone. I’m into the meth lab scene as much as the next guy, but if I do end up wanting to immerse myself in the underworld then I’ll reread Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend.

    P.S. Your description of the zip code in the Ozarks is going to haunt me in my dreams.

    • pickyboy

      Hey everyone-
      Thank you for your comments!

      Collin, your reference to The Little Friend is dead on. A good friend of mine suggested I pick it up…and I was not sorry. I really enjoyed it. Such a strong plot…the entire time I was reading it, I kept thinking: This would make a fantastic movie. Hollywood, please don’t ruin this little gem.

  • marlene

    Hello Picky Boy. Excellent review….I will certainly never add this movie to my Netflix list. This was extremely well written and I enjoyed reading it enormously. The squirrel scene must have been quite difficult to watch. Glad this is one I skipped! Keep ’em coming Picky People!

  • Natalie @ Coffee and a Book Chick

    Hi, Picky Boy — love your review! I will skip this flick simply due to me being a *little* hesitant to see a film that rips a squirrel apart. I can only hope it was some type of new fangled independent digitization or something… I love independent films, too, but sometimes I feel that the word “independent” is abused and some are just likely to say they’re independent only to do something crazy, outlandish, nasty — I can’t get the idea of the squirrel being ripped apart which makes me cringe, cry, yell, ugh…! I literally would have passed out if I saw this.

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