So the awards were presented at Sundance last night, and as Eugene Hernandez writes in his full report at indieWIRE, "Debra Granik's Winter's Bone led the US Dramatic Competition, taking both the grand jury prize and a special jury prize for screenwriting, while suspected player Blue Valentine was entirely shut out of the winners.... In the US Documentary Competition, Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington's Restrepo led the winners, taking the grand jury prize." We've got a roundup on Restrepo here, and there's just enough time before heading off to Rotterdam to take a quick look at what the critics have been saying about Winter's Bone, whose next stop on the circuit is the Forum at the Berlinale.
"Debra Granik's blend of low-budget regional realism and crime thriller (adapted from the novel by Daniel Woodrell) is an absolute knockout," declares Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "Young Jennifer Lawrence is sensational as Ree, fierce teenage scion of an Ozark family of bootleggers, outlaws and meth-cookers. When she finds out that her dad has put up her family house and 300 acres of virgin timber on bond, and then jumped bail, Ree has a week to track him down or be evicted, along with her younger sister and brother and her near-catatonic, pharmaceutical-addled mother. Problem is, the only people who might know where Pa is are the meanest and scariest members of her extended family, and what they know might not be stuff Ree wants to learn."
"Told with a minimum of Hollywood touches, the movie's gripping and occasionally horrifying, as Lawrence's Ree works her way through a society of vicious, drugged-out men and hardfaced women," writes the Boston Globe's Ty Burr. "The obvious comparison, if you're looking for one, is to Frozen River, but halfway through, it struck me that I was watching a Sam Spade detective film set in hillbilly country with a resourceful 17-year-old sleuth willing to keep asking questions and maybe take a beating in order to burrow down to the truth."
James Rocchi for IFC: "Like Frozen River, it depicts a woman driven to hard choices by hard circumstances; like Brick, it sets a teen protagonist into a thoroughly modern set of problems that might be better described by the scenes and structures of classic film noir. Like director Debra Granik's previous Sundance film, 2004's Down to the Bone, it depicts a very American kind of poverty, one not only of economics but also of emotions.... Winter's Bone has more than just the echoes of other films to offer, though. It has the forward motion of a thriller, yes, and the who-knows-what questions of a mystery."
Noel Murray at the AV Club: "Winter's Bone never missteps as a crime movie or as a regional film; it has the feel of one of those small genre films of the 70s and 80s that came and went without much fuss, only to rediscovered by movie buffs decades later. My advice? Discover this one now. Grade: A."
More from Marjorie Baumgarten (Austin Chronicle), David D'Arcy (Screen), John DeFore (Hollywood Reporter), Daniel Fienberg (Hitfix), Eric Kohn (indieWIRE) and Tim Swanson (Los Angeles Times). Interviews with Debra Granik: Cinematical and indieWIRE.
Roadside Attractions has picked up North American rights; the Hollywood Reporter has the full story.
Coverage of the coverage: Sundance 2010. For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @theauteursdaily (RSS).