Winter’s Bone is the indie film that actually wouldn’t have benefited from a bigger budget. It’s well acted, with a simple story and a subtle, very efficient direction. The technical part is good just as it is, and overall this is a satisfying film.
Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly
Jennifer plays Ree, a 17 year old, in desperate need of tracing her father, because otherwise they will loose their house. The father was involved in the local drug trade, the mother has mental problems, so Ree is left in charge of everything, including her two small brothers. As a viewer, you can sense she didn’t have an easy childhood, sowe’re looking at a determined, mature young woman who won’t give up until she reaches her goal.
I found nothing wrong with this performance, so I’ll make that clear now. The most you can hold against it is that, for a big part of the screenplay, there’s nothing very important happening to the character and some might quickly say that Jennifer does almost no acting or that her acting ends up looking too simple and not interesting enough. Except for a couple of key scenes, it’s a quiet performance, but that’s just Jennifer following the direction and blending in with the mood of the film.
Maybe because I didn’t know the actress, the acting looked very natural and believable to me. There’s wasn’t a single moment in which I didn’t buy her in the role of this mature young woman and, alongside Debra Granik’s smart directing, Jennifer is the carrying force of the film. Her face is expressive, yet Jennifer uses strong emotion just when absolutely required, and so conforming to the tough image that Ree has to put for others.
Her 2 best scenes are quite different, but with the same powerful effect. First, there’s the scene with her trying to talk to her mother, trying to get some advice about what to do. Her performance is both simple and incredibly touching, because it feels so real and relatable. The second scene depends more on the screenplay, it’s the lake scene, with such a crucial role in the story. Again: her acting is so natural, and quite engaging in this scene, which really helps selling the story and creating the tension that the scene requires.
Jennifer delivers the right performance, beautifully underlining both the maturity and the strength of the character, but also its vulnerability. It’s a good performance, and my rating for it might seem a bit surprising. It’s a strong , but why not more? Because while I appreciated it, I was never blown away by it; a 3 is a good ranking in my system, and I need in some way to separate it from the rest of this excellent group of women. The performance won’t make film history, but it’s a damn good one.