Jennifer Lawrence first caught our eye two years ago in The Burning Plain, a rather overwrought drama in which she more than held her own against former Oscar winners Kim Basinger and charlize theron.
So it’s no surprise to find Lawrence touted for this year’s Baldie shortlist thanks to Debra Granik’s gritty rural indie, a backwoods noir that pits its heroine against a tight-lipped community whose code of silence even the sopranos might find extreme.
With two siblings and a helpless mother to support, the last thing Ree Dolly (Lawrence) needs is to find her deadbeat dad has used their home as surety for a bail bond that will see it sold off if he can’t be located.
But tracking him down won’t be easy in a harsh corner of Missouri where meth-making is the only boom industry and there’s no upside in revealing where his bones are probably buried.
Thanks to Lawrence’s watchful intelligence and intensity, it’s clear that Ree won’t give up without a fight, risking limb and skin to get the answers nobody wants to give her.
And if those answers don’t ultimately live up to the steady, engrossing build-up, it’s more a failing of Daniel Woodrell’s original novel than Granik’s atmospheric, unshowy direction.
But it’s not all down to director and star; John Hawkes leaves his own mark as Ree’s taciturn uncle teardrop, while DoP Michael McDonough captures the stark ruggedness of the Ozarks through his unforgiving lens.
More of his B&W super 8 inserts can be found in the disc’s alternative opening and music video, alongside chopped scenes (Ree kipping in a cave) and a suitably stripped-down Making Of.
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