Quite improbably, Winter's Bone is going into its ninth weekend, tying it with Slumdog Millionaire as the longest run in our history. "Every so often a film gets under our skin with its haunting authenticity, reinforcing our faith in the wonderfully transporting power of cinematic storytelling. Winter's Bone is unquestionably that film," says USA Today's Claudia Puig. Here's some background from Joe Williams of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
The award-winning new drama "Winter's Bone" is set in the heart of the Missouri Ozarks, but you won't see images of old jalopies on cinder blocks or yokels smoking corn-cob pipes.
New York-based film director Debra Granik shot the movie around Branson, Mo., and said she was careful not to stereotype the culture.
"The people in the Ozarks aren't cut off from the modern world," Granik said of the film opening Friday in San Diego. "A lot of these houses have satellite dishes, and cell phones are ubiquitous. But you have a town life and a hill life. You may be a greeter at Walmart, but you return to a house that's heated by a wood stove, and you eat squirrel for dinner.
"A yard that's strewn with old objects is a sign of rural poverty that could be found anywhere, not just in the Ozarks. It isn't a junk heap so much as a kind of extended storage for people who can't afford an off-site unit. There's this ethic of self-sufficiency."
"Winter's Bone," based on a "country-noir" novel by Springfield, Mo., native Daniel Woodrell, is a thriller about a teen girl whose meth-dealing father has disappeared, imperiling their property at the hands of a bail bondsman. Granik says that Woodrell was instrumental in ushering the production past the gatekeepers of an often-secretive subculture.
"Daniel introduced us to the sheriff in his county," she said. "He introduced us to folklorists, to musicians, to people steeped in Ozarks history.
"A location scout woman introduced us to her 'blood kin,' an Ozarks Renaissance man named Richard Michaels. He is from the Forsyth area and is very highly regarded among his friends and neighbors, so he could turn to them and say, 'Odd as it seems, these people from out of town are interested in shooting a movie here. Here is the script, here is the novel, let's talk about it. Who among you would be willing to meet them?'
"And he hooked us up with various people within a seven-mile radius of his home. In one case, someone had a cave on their property. In another case, someone had a cattle pasture and a pond that were very photogenic. Another family had a holler with five houses on it that we could use for characters' homes. And Richard himself taught us many things, including how to skin a squirrel."
Although the lead role of Ree Dolly is played by a promising young professional named Jennifer Lawrence, many of the parts were played by nonactors from the Ozarks.
"You don't know how they will perform on camera, but some people are just extremely attractive," Granik said. "That may be because of the magnitude of their facial hair or the textures of their face or a look in their eye. If you spend enough time in a place, the resplendent array of people will become visible to you."