The Oscar nominations are out, and I was surprised to see my favorite movie of this year getting four big nominations, for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay. That movie is Winter's Bone, and I hope these nominations will be the push you need (yes, you) to watch it immediately. You can rent it on Amazon for $3.99.
Winter's Bone is more than a great movie; it is the best movie I have seen in recent memory for fully fleshed out female characters that matter. With a female heroine who never once talks about a boy, her female best friend with whom she shares a family-like bond, and a female villain from whom our heroine receives veiled, then not-so-veiled threats, Winter's Bone passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. I want to repeat that this is a movie with a female hero and a female villain, neither of whom are sexualized. Adding to the thrill is the fact that those characters are featured in such a fantastically, spine-tinglingly taut crime drama that you don't realize how special what you've just seen was until it's over.
The film follows 17-year-old Ree, an Ozark Mountains girl from a meth-cooking family. Her dad is supposed to stand trial for said meth-cooking activities, only no one can find him. Because he placed the family home and woods up for bond, Ree, her neuro-atypical mother, and her two young siblings will be left with nowhere to go if they can't manage to "turn 'im up." What follows is Ree's search for dear-old dad, which takes her first to his menacing brother's place, and finally to the home of a local crime boss, whose wife does not appreciate the disturbance. In a region where the code of silence is more important than family ties, Ree is treated brutally by those who see her quest as "against their ways." She is helped, finally, by the same uncle who initially menaced her, when he decides the rest of the clan has gone too far in trying to shut down a 17-year-old's quest to keep her family from sliding into destitution.
As Ree digs deeper to uncover her father's whereabouts, a quieter tale unfolds of a 17-year-old girl, torn between home obligations she wasn't ready for in a drug-ridden community whose ways she despises, and a shaky dream of escape, to a world she neither knows nor understands. Somehow, though, Ree proceeds on her search with an unshakable faith that this better world does exist, and that people in this iniquitous community will, when pushed, still act according to its basic tenants: help your neighbors, love your family, do what's right. She knows that's the only way she can find her father--if one of these unmovable villains gives, just a little bit--and thus the only way to save her family. So she fights like she's got nothing to lose.