Movie’s Better: Part II (The Sequel!)

The Movie’s Better Strikes Back!

This one’s going to be a close call. An excellent film made from a book that’s also terrific.

I speak to you of Winter’s Bone. If you aren’t hip to it, get ready to add another favorite to both your reading and viewing lists — it holds up to the scrutiny of repeated exposures.

Winter’s Bone began its life as Daniel Woodrell’s 2006 “hillbilly noir” of the same name. The New York Times described it as “serious as a snakebite, with a plot that seems tight enough to fit on the label of a package of chew.” After Debra Granik and producer/cowriter Anne Rosellini finished their film Down to the Bone, they contacted the author Daniel Woodrell, who knew what to expect since he was a fan of their low-budget style. He ended up liking the movie enough to attend the Oscars in support.

Immersive and arduous in its authenticity, Winter’s Bone was shot entirely on location in the Ozarks. Jennifer Lawrence (yeah her) was discovered for this role. She quickly had to learn to fight, skin squirrels, chop wood, and breathe the role of Ree Dolly, a teen with a junkie mom, younger siblings she cares for, and a missing dad. Dad’s dead. No mystery there. She needs to produce the body to prove it. The rest of the book (and film) are devoted to this.

The reason one synopsis works for both book and movie is that Winter’s Bone is an excruciatingly faithful adaptation. There is little left out from the book in the film. And what is excised adds to the overall effect. Let’s examine one scene to pinpoint the power of film to economically communicate. Ree has been warned for about 47 minutes to stop looking for her daddy. A variety of lowlifes have tried to scare her off. She asks one final time. Coffee is thrown in her face and she is dragged by her hair into a barn.

What follows is suggested. A pregnant, lengthy shot from far away distances the viewer from the barn and the horror inside. We imagine much worse than she bears. This technique of implied action (often used in horror films) is a very effective way to make a viewer ill-at-ease and imagine the worst. The next shot is a blurry pan (from Ree’s point of view) of a variety of rusty tools hanging from the barn’s ceiling. One asks “what’re we gonna do with you.” as in the novel, she defiantly answers “kill me.” What’s left out is any indication of her fouling her pants…which the book details no less than 3 times.

What else does Granik leave out of this heavily-awarded film? She merely suggests the bond between Ree and her closest friend, in favor of painting a portrait of female strength in an isolated area ravaged by meth. But all out of respect to the story, to our protagonist: “Ree’s a folk hero…She’s the kind you sing a ballad about.”

Be sure to visit A Reading Life for more reviews and news of all things happening at the Everett Public Library

More in Life

Co-owner Jason Parzyk carries two growlers to fill as he serves up beer at Lake Stevens Brewing Co. The first brewery in the city is celebrating one-year anniversary this weekend. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Beer of the Week: Lake Stevens Brewing Co.’s Sour Imperial

The beer has a depth and a complex flavor profile that goes beyond just another barrel-aged stout.

Legendary bluesman Curtis Salgado to play Arlington show

The Northwest blues-soul-funk-R&B living legend performs with Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons Nov. 18.

This year’s Snohomish Blues Invasion has an all-star lineup

Proceeds send the CD Woodbury Trio and the Benton-Townsend Duo to the International Blues Challenge.

Schack holiday show features Northwest watercolor artists

The free exhibit also will have three-dimensional works, such as jewelry, glass, ceramic and wood.

‘Three Billboards’ rooted in Frances McDormand’s rigid role

The actress of “Fargo” fame gives an Oscar-worthy performance in this black comedy on human nature.

‘The Hate U Give’ shows the burden of being black in America

Angie Thomas’ story of a teen girl covers the challenging experience of African Americans.

A merry Christmas concert with Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith

The Christian music stars will perform at Xfinity Arena with Jordan Smith of “The Voice” on Nov. 18.

‘Veep’ production postponed during Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ treatment

The 56-year-old star has been documenting her breast cancer fight on social media.

The Rucker Hill house is featured in the Twin Peaks series in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Living happily ever after in the ‘Twin Peaks’ house

Everett homeowners snagged a role in the recent reboot of the 1990s cult classic show.

Most Read