27 June 2010 | ferguson-6
Bread and Butter
Greetings again from the darkness. A double award winner at the Sundance Film Festival, this film is based on Daniel Woodrell's novel and is directed by Debra Granik. It's opening sequence slaps the viewer with the bleak unforgivingness of life in the backwoods of the Ozarks. This is land of people that time has passed by.
The basic premise of the story is that 17 year old Ree Dolly (played by Jennifer Lawrence) is responsible for raising her brother and sister and caring for her mentally-blank mother while maintaining a mostly positive outlook on the present and future. Reality strikes again when the local sheriff arrives to inform her that her missing, meth-lab running father has an upcoming court date. He used their land and house as collateral for his latest bond. If he fails to show, they will lose their home. Instead of breaking down, Ree pledges to find him and starts out on a hazardous journey, unlike we have seen on screen.
This community of mountain people are distrusting of outsiders, but stunningly, are just as paranoid around insiders and even family members. Their way of life seems to depend on pure independence, even though they all seemed intertwined in the same illegal activities and daily quest for survival. Some kind of odd code exists - ask nothing, give nothing and get rid of any obstacles.
The driving forces of the story are Ree and her constant hope and courage, and her bond to her dad's only brother, Teardrop played chillingly by John Hawkes. Teardrop tries to toughen up Ree and get her to accept her plight, while Ree constantly shows his there is reason to plow forward.
The film is very well written and the local filming brings a harsh reality that was crucial to the film's success. Additionally, I was stunned at the fierceness displayed by Jennifer Lawrence as Ree. Her performance reminded me of my first exposure to the talents of Meryl Streep (The Deer Hunter) and Evan Rachel Wood (Thirteen). Talk about powerful and exciting ... what she did with this role vaults her immediately into a very small group of actresses who can carry a movie with their presence. I am anxiously awaiting her next appearance - a Jody Foster project.
I also want to mention the music in the film. The vocalist, Marideth Sisco, is also the vocalist in the living room band who makes an appearance in one scene. Her voice truly captures the balance of hope and acceptance of plight. This is not a movie for everyone, but it is fascinating and hardcore.