Ever since Oscar season 2011, I have been a fan of Jennifer Lawrence, but until today, I had never seen her playing the role that made her famous.
Ree Polly (Lawrence) is not your typical heroine. With a mentally ill mother and two younger siblings on her hands, she is struggling to make ends meet in the Ozark mountains. When her estranged father sets up their house as bond and then fails to make bail, Ree is suddenly faced with the all-too-real prospect of losing what remains of her family. Determined to prevent the worst, she sets off in an attempt to track down her father and bring him to task for his failures, by any means he can.
With very sparse dialogue, the film hangs almost entirely on the performance of its young lead, who has been forced to take the weight of the world on her young shoulders. The whole action is focused on an area of a few square miles, and the direction is equally minimalist. Director Debra Granik superbly captures the power that comes from extreme hopelessness, and manages to draw grit and determination from all the cast, many of whom had never acted before. In the second half, as the older members of the community finally step in – with both good and bad consequences – the performances from John Hawkes (as Ree’s uncle Teardrop) and Dale Dickey (as the partner of the local mob boss) stand out.
The film cannot be described as enjoyable watching in any way – to a large extent the storyline is as bleak as the landscapes in which it’s set – yet somehow Lawrence manages to bring just the right level of empathy to the role. It is easy to see why the role made her name…
100 mins | 15 | September 17 2010
Watched: October 9 2013, Apple iStore rental