Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Short Reviews: Winter's Bone, Cyrus

The only remarkable aspect of Debra Granik's Winter's Bone is the lead performance by 19 year-old newcomer Jennifer Lawrence. Otherwise, this miserablist backwoods mystery is a bit of a bore - a defiant story of survival and perseverance amidst a rotten trash heap of druggies and sadists that nevertheless runs on fumes.

There's something enticing about the rugged dialogue and the many snarling beasts - both human and animal - that inhabit the film's world, but unfortunately it becomes nothing more than a slide show of poverty, desolation and communal secrecy.

It's Lawrence, with her puffy cheeks and big blue dreaming eyes - just watch the heartbreaking scene where she visits with an Army recruitment officer - that guides us through this rough, predatory landscape. [C+]

Cyrus, the latest mumblecore variation from Jay and Mark Duplass is a delight from start to finish - the kind of sly comedy about middle-aged insecurity and aloofness that makes light of its situation but portrays its characters vividly and lovingly.

John C. Reilly, in a remarkable performance, is the doughy, scraggly subject who, at the behest of his ex-wife (Catherine Keener) meets a frisky, fun single mom (Marisa Tomei) with a 21 year-old son (Jonah Hill) at home who will do anything to compete for her affections.

Like Noah Baumbach's Greenberg, The Duplass Brothers apply a steady, welcome and reserved comedic style - accented with their usual whip-pans and zooms - but they never lose track of the film's heart and the wonderful cast takes care of the rest. [B+]


  1. Wow...right now, WINTER'S BONE is sitting up amongst the very best movies I've watched this year. Did it just get too overhyped for you?

  2. Maybe. I just sat there expecting this harrowing experience and this phenomenal lead performance and one of those things was certainly absent.

    I thought it was a fine little backwoods mystery that goes here and there and is about standing up and doing what's right and surviving (kind of reminded me of "High Noon" in the early going), but ultimately it underwhelmed me greatly.

  3. Winter's Bone: I wasn't totally involved with this story, but the acting and character driven element made me like it more. Still, I think it's the weakest out of the Best Picture race this year! Good review, check out mine when you can!