Winter’s Bone

Thanks to Melissa Silverstein’s glowing review over at Women & Hollywood of this deeply affecting movie, I ran right out to see it this week. Winter’s Bone stars Jennifer Lawrence as 17-year-old Ree Dolly, a girl trying to keep her family together and alive despite the economic deprivation, drug culture, health problems, and gender oppression surrounding her in the Ozarks. It’s dark. It’s strikingly beautiful. And it’s totally disturbing. Here’s the trailer:

Point blank, I want this film to do well. I think it will. I think Lawrence will be nominated for an Oscar and director Debra Granik might just find herself being discussed as the second woman to ever get best director. It’s inspiring to see a film about such difficult topics, with a female heroine at the center of it, take the indy film world by storm. Having said that, however, I left the film with a lot of questions…
What is the line between making great art about a poor teenager and poverty porn? In some ways, Winter’s Bone might be the Precious of 2010–a film that deeply affects so many in an unprecedented and productive way, but is wrapped up in all sorts of complex racial and class dynamics that few want to be real about.
In light of this comparison, it’s also interesting to note that Lawrence is a stereotypically beautiful white woman. As I was thinking about this film right on the heels of Precious‘ huge popularity, it made me wonder if Winter’s Bone would be getting the same reception if Lawrence was overweight or not beautiful by Hollywood standards? Race and body image are such a huge part of both of these films, even if these intersections are buried under the surface of more obvious themes.
And finally, what is the moral responsibility of seeing a film like this? Is it enough to take it in, to learn more about the issues facing real girls in Ree’s situation or is there something cruel and irresponsible about “enjoying” this film and doing nothing to stop the real world problems it depicts?

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