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Indie filmmaker depicts chill in Winter's Bone

Sebastian Mlynarski

Set in the bleak backdrop of the Missouri Ozarks, Winter’s Bone follows a17-year-old heroine named Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) as she struggles to keep her family intact while setting foot in treacherous terrain to track down her drug dealing father, Jessup.

Ree is forced to raise her younger brother and sister as well as care for her ailing mother. Her responsibility is challenged to find Jessup, since he put their house up for his bail bond. If he doesn’t appear soon, the family could lose their home and be forced out into the woods.

Lawrence is dynamic on the screen as she uncovers a web of deceptions and threats from relatives. The discoveries cause her life to be at risk every step of the way, as she pieces the truth together about her father’s disappearance.

John Hawkes who stars as Teardrop, Jessup’s brother, offers a frightening performance as a loose cannon and powder-meth drug addict.

Debra Granik directed the film as well as co-wrote the screenplay with producer Anne Rosellini. It is an adaptation of Daniel Woodrell’s novel. The film continues to garner accolades and awards, which include Best Picture – Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival as well as Best Screenplay.

After a special screening at the Writer’s Guild in Beverly Hills on Thursday night, Granik was on hand to discuss her award-winning project. It was filmed in February 2009 on location in Missouri using many locals as actors. She said the $2-million dollar film was shot with the RED camera in 24 and half days.

Getting the film made like other independent movies was challenging Granik commented. Frozen River starring Melissa Leo helped sell it to those who funded the project. “It served as an excellent case study,” she added.

The 47-year old director initially was attracted to Ree’s character, but needed to find the right actress for the role. When Jennifer Lawrence, who auditioned unannounced came to the casting, Granik said knew she was in luck. “She was the first actress who didn’t stumble over the lines that day and when I first heard her voice, I knew it was Ree Dolly.” The filmmaker said the 20-year old actress was the launching point for Winter’s Bone, adding that Lawrence agreed to be 100-percent fully committed to the project.

Granik said the Kentucky native was fully immersed in all her tasks. She worked with two young children who never acted before, showing them how to skin a squirrel and how to shoot a rifle, which Lawrence herself had to learn for the movie.

Overall, her performance was powerful and riveting. “She set the bar high for her own moxie. She wanted to do it right by Ree,” explained Granik. Dale Dickey, Kevin Breznahan and Garret Dillahunt also appear on screen with Lawrence and Hawkes.

As for shooting in the Ozarks during the middle of winter, Granik said she was fortunate to team up with a well-respected and trusted local man who interpreted the script and assisted with all the locations for the film shoot. “He led us and linked up the crew with real-life properties to flush out Ree’s world,” she said.

In regards to the filmmaker’s future projects, she said she’s always attracted to people, places, and things in stories that draw her in. It is evidenced in Winter’s Bone that she impressively can take pages from a book or script and vividly transforms them into art on the screen.


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