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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Winter's Bone

October 24th, 2010

Winter's Bone - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Winter's Bone started in limited release back in June. Its reviews were so good, that at the time, I said they would be worthy of Awards Season buzz, if it were released during the winter. Turns out I may be right after all, as it picked up three Gotham Independent Awards nominations (Best Feature, Best Cast, and Breakout Actor) and this could be a portent of things to come. However, all this hype has raised expectations, perhaps it has raised them to unobtainable levels.

The Movie

We first meet Ree Dolly as she is taking care of things around the house. Making sure the clothes are clean, making sure there's food, making sure the kids get off to school, etc. She's the adult of the family, since her father's in jail for cooking meth and her mother isn't all there. Her family lives in poverty, relying on the kindness of her neighbors to get by, and even then it is a struggle.

At the beginning of the movie the sheriff tells her that it looks like her father is going to skip bail, as he hasn't been see in a while. At first Ree doesn't see how this concerns her, it's not like he's a good father, but in order to post bail, he had to put up the house as collateral. If he misses his court date the next week, the Dolly family loses their home. That night her neighbor drops off some food, mentions the sheriff, and in a very subtle way makes it very clear that she doesn't want Dee's father to be found. Everywhere she goes, she gets the same response. Don't go looking for your dad.

However, her options are lose the house, or find her dad, so she's going to find her dad, no matter how dangerous it is. And it quickly becomes very dangerous, as she's pointed toward the local crime boss.

Like I said previously, Winter's Bone's reviews are amazing. I suspect it will be a player during Awards Season, although I suspect it is more likely to earn Independent Spirit Award nominations than take home many Oscar wins. The reasons for its success with critics are easy to spot. For instance, it creates a world that is instantly recognizable as real, which is built on the writing, the setting, and especially the acting. If Jennifer Lawrence doesn't at least pick up a couple major nominations, it will be robbery.

The desperation that the characters feel is also very real, which helps the tension build, albeit at a mostly deliberate pace. (There are a few scenes with sudden bursts, but it is mostly a relatively slow journey, as Dee goes deeper and deeper into dangerous territory all while trying to make sure her family will be able to survive.) The tension is undeniable, regardless of the pace.

The Extras

The extras on the DVD start with an audio commentary track with the director, Debra Granik, and the DP, Michael McDonough. Plenty of information, a lot of which is about working on a tiny budget, working with a lot of locals, making sure they had the right Missouri feel to the movie. There's a 46-minute making of featurette, but it is more behind-the-scenes footage than a usual making of featurette. There are four deleted scenes and a song from the movie. For a limited release, that's a solid selection.

Unfortunately, I do not have the Blu-ray to review, so I can't judge the technical presentation. However, it only costs $1 more than the DVD, so it is clearly the better deal, even though there are no exclusive extras. .

The Verdict

I don't know if Winter's Bone will be a major player during Awards Season; it is perhaps too small of a film to be noticed by enough voters. That said, it deserves the accolades. Both the DVD and the Blu-ray are worth picking up, while the latter is the better deal.

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Filed under: Video Review, Winter's Bone