Often one doesn't need to do very much, or anything at all, to excite the bottomless hatred and disgust of an entire community. Histories of family members and probably even distant ancestors are enough to make Jennifer Lawrence seem a threatening presence in town when she has the gall to wonder why her father was killed in 2010's Winter's Bone
. Based on a book by Daniel Woodrell whose works are on Wikipedia called "southern noir
"--quite accurately if this film is any indication--the film is both a nicely raw detective story and a portrait of the inbred hypocrisy of U.S. southern culture.
Lawrence plays Ree, a young woman forced to take care of her two young siblings after her father runs off and her mother loses her mind in some unspecified way--we almost never see her throughout the film and she never speaks. Things change when Ree's father is released from jail on bail and disappears. Before long a bail bondsman comes around Ree's house telling her if her father doesn't show up her house becomes his property.
She knows her father's a lot of things, not many of them good, but she doesn't think he'd leave his family in the lurch like this so she starts asking questions. Circumstances continually define her identity against her will thanks to the built-in perceptions of the people around her. "Never ask for what should be offered," Ree tells her little brother when he suggests asking for some meat from the neighbour's recent kill. He doesn't ask and sure enough the neighbour comes by later and offers them food. There are unwritten laws about the importance of family and hospitality that sound nice in theory but can quickly become double edged swords when people have reasons to see things in certain ways. All Ree wants to do is save her home but a girl asking around about her father might look like a girl looking for justice to people or may have killed the man.
So this framework of decency designed to make sure everyone who's willing to honour the ways of society is able to live suddenly begins working to deprive a woman and children of food and shelter. Everyone gets quite ornery whenever Ree suggests there's something wrong with the way momentum is just being allowed to carry things to Hell.
Lawrence gives a very good performance in the POV role, wisely not overplaying her part, becoming a more or less neutral vessel, defined entirely by circumstance. Sheryl Lee, Laura Palmer herself, also has a small part in the film, appearing in one scene as a woman who gives Ree a helpful tip.
It was rather nice seeing her again and considering how widely acclaimed her performance was in Fire Walk With Me
I wonder that she hasn't gotten more work.