Monday, February 1, 2010

Life's a bitch. And then your dad dies. And then you have to cut his hands off with a chain saw to prove he's dead.

You know you're at Sundance when you see a movie like Winter's Bone from director Debra Granik.  I have to say, I'm not surprised that this film won the Grand Jury prize at this year's festival.  It's the kind of movie Sundance loves.

Winter's Bone is the stark tale of an Ozark teen whose father is a missing meth cooker and whose mother has gone a little crazy.  When the daughter learns that her father signed the family shack over for a bail bond and that she's about to lose the home for her brother, sister, and mother if the dad doesn't show up for his court appearance, she sets out to find her father and ensure he makes it to court.

I can see why Sundance loves movies like this.  It's a startling story told from an independent perspective. I'm pretty sure you'd have a hard time selling this script to a major studio.

Jennifer Lawrence deserves a big shout out for a stunning performance as the main character. And it's not just the acting that makes this movie work.  It's filmed with such honesty and in places that are so obviously not sets, that the story becomes surprisingly real.  That is, until they break out the chain saw.  I won't give away everything (well maybe the title of this post did) but the moment the chain saw comes out, the movie went from a beautifully told, bleak tale to a cheap-thrills horror film.

But even with that misguided turn, this is a movie worth seeing.  Even if you'll leave the theater a little more depressed than when you walked in.

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