Wow, was I dying to see this movie. I had tried to get the rights, so I obviously totally dug the story, characters, setting, everything. I failed and hadn’t thought about it in a while. Then all of a sudden it rears its Sundance-y little head, and it’s come to a theater near me. So I went. This past weekend. High anticipation, to say the least.
And it had problems. It’s a good little movie and I see how Sundance loved it, what with all the relentless grimness and bleak demeanor and hopelessness of everybody’s lives… but, crap… they did some things that irritated me. Did they irritate you? Or am I wrong?
Stuff happened off screen. Important stuff, like action and decisionmaking. And stuff was given that was not earned. Repeatedly.
Without giving away too much, which I loathe in film reviewers (I think it’s cause they can’t get arrested as screenwriters, so they have to tell somebody else’s story, so they tell the one of the movie they’re reviewing. In real life, no one tells the story of a movie when giving a review. “Hey, have you seen X-Men?” “Yeah. It’s great.” “What’s it about?” “These cool heroes and a gnarly bad guy who used to be their buddy.”)… so, without telling the story… here’s what bugged me about WINTER’S BONE.
The girl has a problem (a great one, btw) and she has to ask people to help her. One by one they turn her down, and then one by one, OFF SCREEN, they decide to go ahead and help her. It happens three times, at least. Correctly, of course, they are in ever escalating order. Least problem first.
I’ll tell you about the first one, which doesn’t ruin too much of the story. She needs wheels. She can’t solve her problem without transport. So she goes to ask her friend, who is very young, just had a baby, and lives with her jerk husband. The friend has to ask the husband to borrow the truck. Which happens off screen (I guess it’s the hero’s POV, and we can’t see any scene she’s not in, but she was in the house when the husband got asked and could have overheard the conversation) and the buddy comes in and says he won’t lend you the truck. Jerk. Then, a day or so later, the friend shows up at the heroine’s house, truck and baby and all. We never really hear how she got the truck. Maybe she left the guy. She should. The film is a hell of a lesson in “Take your birth control pill, honey.”
Anyway, not only did the Pick Up Truck Decision happen off screen, the heroine had nothing to do with it. She does not earn the boon she receives. She asks, is told no, gives up and then later on, through no effort of her own, she is granted the use of the truck (or magic bean or sword or secret information or that cute guy’s email… or whatever… you following me, screenwriters?) She did nothing to make Mr. Jerk Husband change his mind and give her the truck. She did not go in there with a 2×4 and threaten him, nor did she beg her friend to ask him again… she did nothing other than ask, get denied, and then later on, receive.
And this is what happens, at least two more times… with much greater effect on her problem.
“Yeah, but she’s a seventeen year old girl. How can she make those mean Ozark folks do what she wants? It’s not believable.”
“Well, it’s a MOVIE, and a drama, and she does not earn what she gets, and every decision that saves her ass is made off screen.”
“She can’t FORCE those unpleasant people to give her what she needs!”
“I repeat, it’s a MOVIE, not real life. They should have figured out a way for her to help herself out of the hole she’s in, a way that we would believe.”
One man’s opinion. What’s yours?