by Lita Robinson
Winter’s Bone is a story of poverty, desperation, and the scrappy resourcefulness of women. The film follows 17-year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) in her quest to save her family from homelessness. She cares for her near-catatonic mother and two younger siblings alone, in a shabby house in rural Missouri, until the Law comes calling. She is informed that her missing father, Jessup, has put up the family property as collateral on a bail bond. If he doesn’t show up to court, the family will be turned out into the snow.
What follows is a story as simple and taut as an old-school Western. Ree sets out to track down her father, but every step along the way turns into a do-or-die endeavor: just getting her hands on a vehicle and keeping her siblings fed is an enormous feat. Her every interaction with other characters—even those trying to help her—crackles with tension. Even extended family members turn on her without warning. Knowing she can’t trust anyone, Ree has learned to rely only on herself, and so we are treated to long sequences of her walking endlessly through the gray Mid-western woodlands, skinny and alone. There isn’t a lot of talking in Winter’s Bone, but the film is shot through with a deep, poignant resentment of authority and the status quo. At one point, Ree admonishes her hungry siblings to “never ask for what ought to be offered.”
Lawrence carries off such lines, which could turn to cheese in the wrong hands, with an earnest passion. What makes her a fully realized character rather than a spectacle or a stereotype is the fact that director Debra Granik allows the audience time to breathe, to soak in Ree’s reality and to contemplate her depressing surroundings. We aren’t shown her pathetic house in voyeuristic flashes; there are no sappy montages of her worn-out furniture and clothes. Instead, we are at her elbow as she cooks for her family and next to her on a barn floor after she’s been beaten up. Granik, like Ree, keeps things moving and stays focused on the task at hand. The result is beautifully balanced, that rare film that’s both contemplative and thrilling.
Perhaps the most obvious progenitor of Winter’s Bone is Frozen River (2008), another excellent film that also received accolades at Sundance and the like. As with Bone, River follows a female protagonist (Oscar nominee Melissa Leo) and boasts a female writer/director (Courtney Hunt). It is a film of similar minimalism—and similar quality. What elevates Winter’s Bone and Frozen River from the realms of so-called “poverty porn” is both films’ insistence on simply telling the women’s stories, neither sensationalizing nor apologizing for their subject matter, even though the characters’ poverty is sometimes shocking. Hopefully, this new aesthetic of raw reality and female resilience is the tip of the proverbial iceberg; one Winter’s Bone is worth more than a thousand Twilights.
Every year, at least one indie film actress delivers such a staggeringly poignant performance that she is immediately pulled from the ranks of obscurity and flung into the spotlight. Carey Mulligan in “An Education.” Freida Pinto in “Slumdog Millionaire.” Ellen Page in “Juno”—OK, Pinto was mostly a pretty face in “Slumdog,” but she’s since landed prominent roles in upcoming films by Woody Allen and Julian Schnabel, so… you get the picture.
This is Jennifer Lawrence’s year.
The 19-year-old Kentucky native’s breakout year was supposed to be 2008 when, after a series of TV stints including a regular role on the TBS comedy “The Bill Engvall Show,” she was cast as Kim Basinger’s troubled daughter, Mariana, in writer-director Guillermo Arriaga’s non-linear drama, “The Burning Plain.” Though receiving a rave review in the Los Angeles Times, the Charlize Theron-starring film received an overall lackluster critical reception and floundered at the box office. Despite the poor reviews, which were mostly focused on Arriaga’s cliché-ridden screenplay, Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as the lovesick Mariana – who gets her jollies killing birds with slingshots and burning scars into her boyfriend’s arm – was well-received, earning her the Marcello Mastroianni Award for best first time young actor/actress at the Venice Film Festival.
Lawrence’s performance also caught the eye of indie filmmaker Debra Granik (“Down to the Bone”), who cast her as Ree Dolly, the anchor of her movie, WINTER’S BONE. In the film, based on a 2006 novel by Daniel Woodrell, Lawrence, appearing in every scene, plays a 17-year-old girl who is forced to track her father through the Ozark Mountains after he places their home up as his bail bond and flees. She is forced to navigate the dark meth underworld, only aided by her reluctant, violent Uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes).
Critics are gaga over Lawrence’s performance as Ree, with New York Times critic A.O. Scott calling her, “as memorable and vivid a heroine as you are likely to see on screen this season” in his glowingly positive review of the film. “Winter’s Bone” is currently the highest-rated film of the year on Metacritic, it won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and everyone is talking about Lawrence as a potential nominee come awards season.
Yes, Hollywood is truly her oyster. She’s costarring alongside Mel Gibson in the Jodie Foster-directed film “The Beaver,” and is currently eyeing a reimagining of “Psycho” called “House at the End of the Street.” In order to shed her image as the troubled tomboy in dark dramas, she recently posed for a sexy photoshoot in Esquire in order to broaden her appeal.
MMM sat down with the up-and-coming star Jennifer Lawrence to chat about the making of “Winter’s Bone,” why she posed for Esquire, how she’s managing her career and the most important meal of the day.
MANHATTAN MOVIE MAGAZINE: How were you cast in “Winter’s Bone?” I heard you had to fight pretty hard for the role.
JENNIFER LAWRENCE: Yeah. I auditioned twice in L.A. and then they said I was too pretty, and I flew to New York that night and just showed up. I basically wouldn’t go away until they hired me.
MMM: Did the audition process include you chopping wood or running through a forest?
LAWRENCE: [Laughs] Of course! No. The first two [auditions] were pretty traditional. I had sides and I’d just go in and do them. But the third one was different. We talked for a really, really long time. I did a lot of improv. That was the first time we started talking as if I’d be doing the movie. They said, “We’d want you to go to Kentucky first.” “Sure, anything.” “We’d want you to come up a few weeks before filming and live in Missouri.” “Sure, whatever!” Maybe I was the only one that was so not even phased by it. I literally would have done anything.
MMM: Did you go through an outdoorsy boot camp where you shot guns, etc.?
LAWRENCE: I went through a Jennifer boot camp – which is where I think what I’m doing is really strenuous and I’m spending like an hour doing it, maybe, and I get bored and go on to something else. I learned how to chop wood. I did learn how to handle a gun, I think. Learning how to cut open a squirrel… that’s just something you gotta just freakin’… do it. I wasn’t going to practice that.
MMM: And that was a real squirrel?
LAWRENCE: Yeah. [Shivers] I can’t watch that scene. I get really grossed out!
MMM: In what ways do you relate to the heroine of this film? Would you characterize yourself as an independent person?
LAWRENCE: I am, but not that much. The stubbornness, the competitiveness, not thinking of failure as an option – a lot of that comes from me.
MMM: Do you have any brothers and sisters?
LAWRENCE: I have two older brothers. I’m the baby.
MMM: That’s quite the opposite from Ree who’s the “matriarch” of this broken home.
LAWRENCE: I’ve always been a babysitter and a nanny, so every time there was kids that’s where I’d be – already throwing them up in the air before you even blink. So, that part came naturally.
LAWRENCE: I didn’t. I only did it through ‘action’ and ‘cut.’ I was there, but it wasn’t a sad set by any means. We had a blast and I had fun. For me, there’s never a time I need to be depressed to do a better job.
MMM: How long was the shoot?
LAWRENCE: Six weeks. We shot for 25 ½ days.
MMM: And you’re in every scene.
LAWRENCE: I know. I think I slept for a month after I wrapped!
MMM: What was it like shooting those intense scenes with John Hawkes [Teardrop]?
LAWRENCE: He’s incredible. He’s a true chameleon. You don’t know it’s John Hawkes until you read the credits. And he’s the sweetest man. He’s such a badass in the movie. It’s awesome.
MMM: Did you research the meth underworld at all?
LAWRENCE: No. Cause Ree isn’t interested in that world, so I wasn’t.
MMM: So you didn’t watch “Intervention” or anything?
LAWRENCE: [Laughs] I watch “Intervention” obsessively anyway, on a marathon. You naturally learn more about meth because it really is a huge part of the culture down there, so I naturally learned more. But I didn’t seek it out.
MMM: Since you followed up “The Burning Plain” with “Winter’s Bone,” are you worried about – since your career is just taking off – being typecast as the troubled girl in dark, wilderness-set dramas?
LAWRENCE: No. Because my first three movies were dark and grimy but the truth is that’s why we decided to do Esquire. That was so people would see me as something else. No, I don’t think it’s a problem. I’m happy that these are the movies I’m breaking out in. It’s the same reason I don’t wear low cut shirts and short shorts. I don’t want to be remembered as the girl with great boobs. I have a brain, I believe I have talent and that’s what I want to break me out. So, now that those were my first three movies, I feel like I can move on.
MMM: Speaking of Esquire, I’ve only seen you in two films – “The Burning Plain” and “Winter’s Bone – and in those films you’re running around all covered in dirt. In person, you clearly look much more glamorous. So the decision to do Esquire was so people wouldn’t see you as the girl in the knit cap caked in dirt?
LAWRENCE: Yeah, with a hat over my eyebrows. It’s so easy to get typecast and men are idiots, so once they see a girl with a wool hat over her eyebrows they think, “Ugly!” and they move on. They’ll never think of Jennifer Lawrence as being pretty or sexy or funny or anything else. The concept of acting is just hard for people to understand. Yes, I’m dark in “Winter’s Bone,” but I’m the least dramatic person in the entire world. I’m ACTING in this movie. I also live in a condo, not a cabin. I have a publicity group and agents that I really trust, and I did trust them when they thought [Esquire] would be a good idea.
MMM: Since you’re so young and you have all these handlers in your ear, how in control of your own career are you?
LAWRENCE: I was pickiest when I picked my people. My publicity people know that if I’m being interviewed, if I’m on TV, if I’m in a magazine, I’m talking about work. I’m not talking about me and how I lost 10 pounds in two weeks. And then with movies, my agents know that I’m not going to do something that’s stupid and if I don’t love it. And they’re OK with that. On the other hand, I do have a stylist and she’s a professional and I don’t really argue with her. If she tells me to wear big pants I’m going to wear them because she’s a professional and not me. And if my publicity people tell me to not do this magazine, that’s why I hired them – because I trust them. So, I won’t do that magazine. If they had told me not to do “Winter’s Bone,” I would have said, “Screw you. I’m doing it.” But there are other movies where they’ll say, “I don’t think it’s a good idea,” and I won’t do it.
MMM: I heard you were a huge fan of the “Twilight” novels and films. Did you audition?
LAWRENCE: Of course! I auditioned for Bella and Rosalie. No such luck!
MMM: You, however, have some fascinating upcoming projects including “The Beaver,” which you just wrapped shooting on. What was it like being directed by Jodie Foster in that?
LAWRENCE: She’s brilliant. She has the mind of five men and she’s the most normal person I’ve met since I’ve been doing this. It’s as if someone forget to tell her she’s famous; she has no idea. She’s just a mom. She’s nice, smart and has a calming presence on set. She never got too excited or too upset about something. She’s very level.
MMM: And you also worked with Mel Gibson on “The Beaver.” The perception of Mel as of late is as, well, a crazy person. What was it like working with him?
LAWRENCE: He’s a really nice guy. I mean… he listens to Jodie and he doesn’t have any of that, “Oh, I’m a director too. Don’t tell me what to do!” She tells him to do something and he doesn’t even question her.
MMM: So he’s not this diva marching around set going, “We’re on Mel Gibson time!”
LAWRENCE: [Laughs] No. He’s not a diva at all. We only had a couple of passing scenes together. It was mostly me and Anton [Yelchin]. Mel and I saw each other on set a lot and I don’t have any problems with him.
MMM: And what’s going on with this upcoming film you’ve reportedly been cast in, “House at the End of the Street?” The trades are saying it is to “Psycho” what “Disturbia” was to “Rear Window.”
LAWRENCE: I’m in this place right now where I’ve got a lot of decisions to make, so it’s not guaranteed if I’m going to do that movie.
MMM: Yeah. There seems to be this formula for young actresses nowadays: I’m going to do the horror film, then get locked into a franchise, etc. Are you worried about falling into that trap?
LAWRENCE: Yeah, I am worried about that. That’s why I’m being hesitant right now in this interview! [Laughs] I’ve really got to start thinking through… I’ve never done a movie that I’m not proud of. It’ s hard because I love a lot of people to make movies with, but I just happen to be very, very picky because I have a career in mind. I’ve been working since I was 14 to not be typecast. I turned down a series with Disney and I told the president of Disney that I didn’t think I was very Disney. I’ve always been careful about it and it’s intensified now. I’ve been known for this and this, and now I feel like I have to do something opposite. I’m not really sure what I want to do next. Could I do “House at the End of the Street?” Yes. But I also might not. I don’t know what the best decision to make is right now.
MMM: So are you waiting for “Winter’s Bone” to be released and see what the general reception is like before deciding on your next role?
LAWRENCE: No, I’m not waiting on that. It’s more of a gut feeling of, “If this feels right, I’ll do it. If it doesn’t, I won’t.” I’m not really waiting to see if I’m going to get famous before I do something.
MMM: I know you have your handlers, but what’s your process of picking a role?
LAWRENCE: It’s kind of like picking a best friend. You never know when it’s going to happen and then you meet. I don’t know. I can read a synopsis on a script and I can see if it’s stupid. If it’s stupid, I don’t really read it. Sometimes if it sounds good I read it, love the role, love the movie and that’s when I audition for it and want it. A lot of times they’re really, really different. Because that’s boring. I don’t want to be Ree again or Mariana in “The Burning Plain” again. I want to do something different.
MMM: Speaking of “The Burning Plain,” Charlize Theron’s seems like a nice career to emulate for a young actress like yourself. Did she give you any pointers?
LAWRENCE: She never told me what do because that’s my life and this is her life. She more showed me. She’s an amazing person. She’s so nice. I appreciate her and Jodie. They showed me that you could be normal and be famous. You can be an actress and not be crazy. I really, really appreciate that.
MMM: What’s “normal?”
LAWRENCE: Um… I don’t know if you can really identify what normal is but you can definitely identify what “crazy” is.
MMM: What’s “crazy?”
LAWRENCE: Oh god. [Laughs] There are a lot of different breeds!
LAWRENCE: Yes. And I’m going to buy an apartment here and do both.
MMM: What’s it like living in New York versus living in L.A. for a young movie actress?
LAWRENCE: It’s different because living in New York was first so its always felt like home to me. You could be born and raised from birth to being 13, but you grow up from 14 and on, and at 14 I came here. So this has always been my place and I love it. And then, I moved to L.A. and I hated it until I got my life there. Now I made my life there and they both feel like home, equally. If I’m in New York too much I want to go back to L.A. with the good weather and the beach, and if I’m in L.A. too much – like now – I feel like, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to get back to New York.”
MMM: What do you like best about New York?
LAWRENCE: Transportation? That’s pretty tough in L.A.
MMM: Do you have any favorite NYC haunts?
LAWRENCE: Um… I don’t know… All I’m thinking about are bars… I don’t know. I guess not.
MMM: Favorite restaurants?
LAWRENCE: I’m usually not a restaurant repeater. I’m very weird about that. Except for breakfast. For breakfast, I go to the same restaurant in Santa Monica almost every day. But I never go alone, I only go if someone will go with me. I’m so weird about breakfast. [Laughs]
MMM: Why are you weird about breakfast? Did your mother serve you these massive feasts for breakfast growing up?
LAWRENCE: No, I never had it as a kid. It’s only recently. I just love breakfast! I think it’s when I started getting addicted to coffee. Breakfast was like the coffee treat. Like if I get to Snug Harbor I could get my coffee and I could get my breakfast.
MMM: Do you do different things in L.A. versus New York? For instance, L.A. is for business and New York is for fun?
LAWRENCE: Well, L.A. is where I do my business. I did learn to surf in L.A. And my friends are different in L.A. They’re more musicians and hippies who kind of live on the beach. In New York, they’re more hippies that are into fashion.
WINTER’S BONE opens on June 11th in select theaters.
Summit Entertainment confirmed today that THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN will be released as two separate films with the first of the two slated to be released in theatres on November 18, 2011. Academy Award® winner Bill Condon will direct both films starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner along with Billy Burke as Charlie Swan as well as returning members of the Cullen Family including Peter Facinelli as Carlisle, Elizabeth Reaser as Esme, Jackson Rathbone as Jasper, Nikki Reed as Rosalie, Ashley Greene as Alice and Kellan Lutz as Emmett…
UPCOMING FILM PROJECTS!
USA Today visited the set of TRANSFORMERS 3 and got new details on the third film, opening in theaters on July 1, 2011. The newspaper confirmed it will be released in 3D. Talking about the second film, director Michael Bay said, “I’ll take some of the criticism” while standing at a set built to resemble a dilapidated nuclear reactor. “It was very hard to put (the sequel) together that quickly after the writers’ strike (of 2007-08).” Bay said that “This one really builds to a final crescendo. It’s not three multiple endings… As a trilogy, it really ends. It could be rebooted again, but I think it has a really killer ending.”
“One thing we’re getting rid of is what I call the dorky comedy,” Bay added. So the twins, “They’re basically gone,” he said, though John Turturro returns for comic relief.
The newspaper says the new villain will be Shockwave, “the robot cyclops-turned-laser-cannon, who became dictator of their home world of Cybertron after the other Autobots and Decepticons journeyed to Earth.”
According to USA Today, “The new film features Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) taking his first tenuous steps into adulthood while remaining a reluctant human ally of Optimus Prime.” “Shia has this great line: ‘You know, I’ve saved the world twice, but I can’t get a job,’” producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura said. Transformers 3 centers around the space race between the U.S.S.R. and the USA, suggesting there was a hidden Transformers role in it all that remains one of the planet’s most dangerous secrets…
You saw him in “Tropic Thunder” and on last Sunday’s MTV Movie Awards, and now Paramount is going to make movie about Tom Cruise’s LES GROSSMAN. The official announcement:
Paramount Pictures and MTV Films announced today that they are set to develop a movie around mega-producer Les Grossman. The announcement comes on the heels of Grossman’s groundbreaking and visionary production of the soon-to-be Emmy® award-winning 2010 MTV Movie Awards Sunday night. Tom Cruise, along with Ben Stiller and Stuart Cornfeld of Red Hour Films will produce and have secured the life rights to Grossman…
Universal Pictures announced that Tony Gilroy (“Michael Clatyon”) is returning to write the script for THE BOURNE LEGACY, the fourth installment in the Jason Bourne franchise. He penned “The Bourne Identity,” “The Bourne Supremacy” and “The Bourne Ultimatum”…
Producer Scott Rudin has purchased the rights to the upcoming biography CLEOPATRA: A LIFE by Stacy Schiff and may be looking at Angelina Jolie to play the last of the Egyptian Pharoahs, says USA Today. The story of Cleopatra has had a long history in Hollywood, including (among others) a lost silent version starring Theda Bara, a 1934 version with Claudette Colbert and, most famously, a 1963 version with Elizabeth Taylor in the title role. Let’s hope Jolie’s performance doesn’t mirror her crappy one in the Oliver Stone dud “Alexander”…
The classic children’s fairy tale, SNOW WHITE will be getting an updated live-action retelling courtesy of Brett Ratner and Relativity Media, Deadline reports. The new version is said to take an “edgy” and comedic look at the original Brothers Grimm story with Ratner claiming, “This is not your grandfather’s ‘Snow White’”…
F. Gary Gray (“The Italian Job”) is in early talks to direct KANE & LYNCH, a big screen adaptation of the Eidos video game. Stunt coordinator and second unit director Simon Crane was directing the project but exited in May due to creative differences. Bruce Willis and Jamie Foxx are attached to star. The plot follows Adam “Kane” Marcus (Willis), a mercenary who makes an unlikely alliance with a schizophrenic killer named James Lynch (Foxx). The duo is forced on a mission to retrieve a stolen microchip…
According to the Hollywood Reporter, “The Proposal” director Anne Fletcher, stars Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, and producers David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman are reteaming for Universal Pictures’ MOST WANTED. Not to be confused with the Keenan Ivory Wayans action film of the same name, in this action comedy, Bullock plays a woman on the run with Reynolds as an agent who is supposed to be handling her. The project is described as having a tone similar to that of Universal’s 1988 release “Midnight Run,” with Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin, which the studio is developing a sequel for…
For all the “True Blood” fans out there: “True Blood” actor Stephen Moyer will star in thriller THE DOUBLE opposite Richard Gere and Topher Grace, and then he’ll topline THE BIG VALLEY with Jessica Lange. “The Double” is writer Michael Brandt’s directorial debut and stars Moyer as a Russian spy. The story centers on a retired CIA operative (Gere) forced to partner with a young FBI agent (Grace) to hunt down the killer of a senator in Washington. Next month, Moyer will go to Louisiana for “The Big Valley,” an adaptation of the 1960s ABC series that starred Barbara Stanwyck. Lange will play Stanwyck’s role of matriarch of the Barkleys, a family of ranchers in 19th century California. Moyer will play Jarrod Barkley, the family’s respected attorney who represents ranchers fighting to keep their land from being taken by railroad companies…
Michael Fassbender is in the running for two different comic book adaptations, playing the villain in each, Showbiz411 reports. The “Inglorious Basterds” actor is allegedly up for the part of Magneto in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and the unknown villain of Marc Webb’s 3D SPIDER MAN reboot. According to the article, Fassbender can’t fit both films into his schedule and will have to pick one or the other…
Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer and Rashida Jones will star opposite Paul Rudd in MY IDIOT BROTHER. Jesse Peretz is directing the comedy about Ned (Rudd), an idealist. His three sisters (Banks, Deschanel and Mortimer) are ambitious. His mother is overbearing. Ned crashes at each of their homes, in succession, and brings truth, happiness and a sunny disposition into their lives. In other words, he wreaks havoc…
AT THE MULTIPLEX!
There are a few fantastic films in limited release opening this week: JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK provides a revealing portrait of the legendary TV personality and comedienne. If you weren’t a fan of Rivers before, you definitely will be after viewing this touching documentary. WINTER’S BONE features an outstanding performance by star Jennifer Lawrence as a teenage girl who races against the clock to find her deadbeat dad before her family loses their home. The film also boasts a great supporting turn by character actor John Hawkes as her badass uncle, Teardrop. THE LOTTERY, a doc by Madeleine Sackler, is a very one-sided piece of advocacy (although the side is the right one) in favor of charter schools in order to fix the failing public school system in New York and beyond. It’s heartbreaking nonetheless, as Sackler follows four families from Harlem and the Bronx who have entered their children in the charter school lottery with very slim hopes for winning a better future…
…Until next week!