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+]