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But there are also places where the movie’s characters veer too close to broad caricature. Winter’s Bone is based on a novel by Daniel Woodrell, adapted for the screen by Granik and Anne Rosellini, and it took several prizes at Sundance earlier this year. (Granik’s first feature, the 2004 Down to the Bone, in which Vera Farmiga played a working-class, cocaine-using mom, was similarly acclaimed.) Winter’s Bone is striving to tell a story that’s rooted, in some way, in real life. Still, I’m always a little nervous when a filmmaker shows us overweight people who may or may not be missing significant teeth, wearing battered fleece pullovers or rumpled plaid shirts flung over dirty T-shirts. I’m not saying people don’t ever look like that in real life; it’s simply that those conventions are too often used to denote a filmmaker’s idea of real life. Clearly, Granik doesn’t intend to condescend to her characters. But there’s no getting around the fact that to her they represent a mysterious “other,” mountain people with customs unto themselves, and too often in Winter’s Bone, they come off more as symbols than as human beings. [. . .] This is a family that, despite the fact its human members barely have enough to eat, won’t hesitate to take in a stray dog in trouble. In fact, one of the things Winter’s Bone captures best is the generosity of people who often don’t have much themselves — Granik doesn’t present that kind of generosity as a pleasant surprise, but as a given. (Stephanie Zacharek, “Winter's Bone a Little Too Pleased With its Own Folky Bleakness,” Movieline, 8 June 2010)

Re: "In fact, one of the things Winter’s Bone captures best is the generosity of people who often don’t have much themselves — Granik doesn’t present that kind of generosity as a pleasant surprise, but as a given."

To some of us, this isn't an example of capturing what is true, but once again, more primitivism -- the cruelty in not really wanting to look straight at the "other." More true to life, from what I've known, is what is actually hinted at when Mother Marsh gives away her turkey dinners to even poorer families in "Little Woman," namely: it's not about helping other people, but about the strange pleasure and even feeling of empowerment you (or rather warped, masochistic people) get when you deprive yourself to the point of real self-harm. Not generosity or significant attendance (to others), but pleasure (to self) through sacrifice, is the norm for love-starved, impoverished people. Look closer.

Link: Winter’s Bone a little too pleased with its own folky bleakness (Movieline)


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