June 22, 2010

Winter's Bone: Crank's ravages revealed

Doing any doing forensic work in rural communities these days? I just got back from a trip to some distal towns of Northern California, where gaunt, straggly haired, gap-toothed phantoms glide through the Walmart aisles and trailer parks. As crack cocaine is to inner cities and alcohol is to Indian reservations, so methamphetamine is devastating rural white communities across the United States.

Winter's Bone, set in the remote Ozark Mountains, hauntingly depicts this plague. The story focuses on 17-year-old Ree Dolly, whose father has disappeared after putting up the family home as bail collateral. Unless she can find him, Ree and her younger brother and sister will be without a roof over their heads.

Ree's father is a "cooker" and her mother has been driven into a catatonic state. Ree is on her own in the hostile, clannish, and male-dominated community where she stumbles from trailer to trailer in her frantic search. Crank's ravages are everywhere, in the gaunt and grim faces, the harsh and sudden violence, the cruelty and hopelessness. Her father's only brother, Teardrop (flawlessly played by John Hawkes), holds a spoonful of the white powder out to her and asks, "Gotten the taste for it yet?" "Not yet," she recoils.

Aside from the down-home soundtrack, Winter's Bone is not easy to watch. Its gritty realism never lets up. The characters look like they climbed from Dorothea Lange’s Depression and Dust Bowl images, only with a touch of meth-induced paranoia added to the hunger and despair. The dialogue is sparse, and not once in 100 minutes do we hear laughter or feel much hope for Ree's future. What makes it all bearable is the strength and determination of Ree, movingly played by 19-year-old Jennifer Lawrence.

Winter's Bone is winning awards and earning rave reviews. The acclaim is well deserved. To achieve authenticity, director and co-writer Debra Granik and her team spent two years immersing themselves in the local community. Ree's younger sister is even played by a child who lives in the main house in which the movie is set. The film's power makes me want to see Granik's 2005 debut film, "Down to the Bone," another award winner focused on drug addiction and featuring a strong female lead.

Highly recommended.

NOTE: If you enjoyed this review, I encourage you to visit my Amazon review (HERE) and click on the "YES" button to leave me positive feedback that boosts my reviewer ranking.
Click on the above Movie Review icon to see past forensically focused film reviews.


Orteg√£o said...

Down here in Brazil, where I work as a forensic expert ("perito criminal") for the State Police in a large rural area, crack cocaine is already present everywhere, even in remote rural communities. It is very cheap, and as there is no jail time for users down here, there is simply no way to stop it from spreading everywhere. I'm getting to see more and more cases of crack-induced homicides, and crack addicts are stealing anything they can carry, invading homes in broad daylight to steal whatever they find in order to trade it for crack.

Kay Emerick, Ph.D. said...

Also good on the horror of crack is the TV series Breaking Bad, about a cancer-ridden high school chemistry teacher turned meth cooker. Available on Netflix Kay Emerick, Ph.D.