I know it’s a little bit silly and childish, but I can’t help feeling a little put off when a movie gets unanimous praise from just about the entire corps of critics. You know, when the DVD envelop is covered with maximum grades from everyone that matters and the claims about “best movie of the year” that comes with it. Or when the user reviews at IMDB consist of almost only 10 star ratings, apart from a few one star reviews from people who just didn’t get it.
I used to be a punk rocker once upon a time and I suppose some personality features never change. I don’t want to see and love the same movies like anyone else; I want to cling to the illusion that I’m a truly special and unique snowflake.
In the case of Winter’s Bone, this was obviously out of the question. I’m late to the party and the DVD cover is an orgy in five-star reviews. I feel as if I’m the last person on Earth to discover it. However I must admit that if I’m going to be a rebel, I’d better save it for some other movie. Because I truly loved it and the praise and the rewards it has received were well deserved.
Some of the reviews gave the impression that Winter’s Bone would be on the slow side, which made me a bit weary. I’m not proud of it, but some movies, which are more subtle than eventful, can make me rather sleepy. I have especially embarrassing memories from when I saw ”Wings of Desire” – or rather DIDN’T see it, since I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I knew it was good and that I probably would have liked it, but I just couldn’t make it, no matter how much I pinched myself. My eyes went on strike.
However I needn’t have worried this time. I was enchanted by the 17 year old heroine’s fight for survival and her fearless hunt for her father in a world and landscape where the label “miserable” feels inadequate. The story had my full attention right from the first to the last screen.
Setting a trend?
After watching the movie I listened to an interview with the director Debra Granik, who talked passionately about the lack of good, strong, female leading characters in coming-of-age movies. More often than not, they’re victims, suffering from abuse or being self destructive with some kind of disorder. Winter’s Bone was a conscious effort to do something different, and being the mother of two teenage girls, I salute her for it. It’s about time that the movie industry acknowledges that there are young women who are capable of caring for themselves, on their own terms.
By the way, isn’t it quite an interesting coincidence that Winter’s Bone came the same year as True Grit, starring another strong, young woman? I couldn’t help thinking that Winter’s Bone is a bit like a crossover between True Grit and The Road. In both cases we have the story of a girl who is doing what a girl’s got to do. But in Winter’s Bone, she’s not doing it for honor and revenge, but for survival, and the world is almost as barren and hostile as in The Road.
If those movies are setting a trend in how you portray young women, I hope it’s here to stay.
Winter’s Bone (Granik, US, 2010). My rating: 5/5