MOVIES | A conversation with Debra Granik, director of “Winter’s Bone”


Winter’s Bone, winner of the 2010 Sundance Dramatic Grand Jury Prize (essentially best picture for the festival), opens Friday at the Uptown Theatre.

The official synopsis via the press notes:

17-year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) sets out to track down her father, who put their house up for his bail bond and then disappeared. If she fails, Ree and her family will be turned out into the Ozark woods of Southern Missouri. To find him, Ree confronts the dangerous world of the Dolly family. With the reluctant help of her hard-bitten uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes) and her best friend Gail, Ree defies her outlaw clan’s code of silence, hacking her way through their lies, evasions, and threats to piece together the truth.

While I have some reservations about the film, it is a taut, skillfully made, and well-acted piece of independent American cinema. It also shows the audience a world rarely, if ever, captured onscreen: the Ozark woods in Southern Missouri. Its sense of place is the filmmakers’ greatest accomplishment. The cast, topped off with two of my favorite modern character actors, Alexandria-born-and-raised John Hawkes (Deadwood, Eastbound & Down, Me and You and Everyone We Know) and Garret Dillahunt (also seen in Deadwood, as well as last year’s The Road and 2008’s No Country For Old Men), is top-notch. Look out for the lead, Jennifer Lawrence, who gives a strong performance as our conduit to this world. Dale Dickey, who only recently came to my attention via her amazing work as a meth-addicted mommy in the second season of Breaking Bad (a show everyone should watch), is phenomenal here as well.

I had a chance to chat with writer/director Debra Granik at the Walker Art Center when she was in town for a special presentation of the film before its release here. As I mentioned, I do have some problems with the film, one of which is how calculated it feels. Winter’s Bone is another in a recent wave of successful independent films (Sin Nombre, Frozen River, Ballast, and Precious, to name a few) dealing with the plight of impoverished people underrepresented in movies today, but in the form of a genre story. I specifically asked about this for my final question to Granik, and what she said, like the rest of the interview, helped enlighten me as to what she was thinking when she made the film.

Press play button below to hear the interview.