If you thought the cast of "Jersey Shore" occupied a drastically alien social class, then you're in for a shock with "Winter's Bone." The film is about a side of America few are aware even exists -- a wholly closeted world where Obama's presidency and Justin Beiber's discography have yet to register. For shame!
Set in a small, insular community in the Ozark Mountains, "Winter's Bone" is the story of Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence), a 17-year-old girl playing the adult in her fractured family, caring for her younger brother and sister as well as their incapacitated mom.
It's up to her to track down her crystal meth-addicted fugitive dad, who's put their house up as collateral for his bail bond and has disappeared. With the help and hindrance of the creepy community, she'll have to find out where he went and what happened to him.
The journey is as punishing as it is powerful, and the film is made by its lead performer. Lawrence, 20, has a rare power to make an impact, and she does just that, convincing wholeheartedly of her character's responsibility and drive. If you're not yet familiar with the name, you soon will be -- Lawrence has joined the cast of "X-Men: First Stand" and "Winter's Bone" seems certain to bag her an Oscar nomination.
Director Debra Granik constructs the world with unashamed grittiness, working with DP Michael McDonough to cast much of the action in a strange sort of half-light which adds to the sense of desperation. An incredible supporting performance from the always-reliable John Hawkes completes the package.
"Bone" is slow at times, and incredibly hard going from start the finish. But it's a rare insight into a world so terrifyingly isolated it's no wonder it's so unfamiliar. It's also an incredible calling card for a tremendously exciting new talent. "Winter's Bone" is one of the year's indie best.
Extras! Debra Granik serves up a director's commentary and we're treated to the usual collection of deleted scenes and a making-of special. Featurettes "Hillbilly Up: Defining the Contemporary Hillbilly" and "Scouting the Ozarks: Resident Experts" give us a bit of insight into the film's curious world. A music video from Marideth Sisco for "Angel Band' completes the set.