Dave's Rating:

4.0

The best exploding meth lab movie of 2010.

Who's In It: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Kevin Breznahan, Dale Dickey, Garret Dillahunt, Sheryl Lee

The Basics: Ree Dolly (Lawrence) is white and rural--the Ozarks--but she has a more than a few things in common with Precious. She's poor, has to take care of two little kids alone in a rotten shack, relies on the kindness of a neighbor for food and lives among brutal, mean, stupid people. People who cook up meth and own ferrets. And now the law's coming to take away the house because Ree's nowhere-to-be-found drug addict Dad put it up as bond for his bail. Worse, her search for him among her despicably violent and weatherworn extended family results in explosive hostility and brutal beatdowns from some of the hardest looking people you've ever laid eyes on. You forget they're actors, that's how frightening and unpleasant these folks are, like they're all competing in the toothless olympics.

What's The Deal: This emotionally scarring, pain-wracked character study/missing person mystery plays in a parallel Brick-like environment with its own language and code of conduct. It also involves a teenager unwillingly playing detective. Of course, this teenager is fighting for her own survival so the stakes are a little higher. Best of all, director Debra Granik, her star Jennifer Lawrence (her biggest credits before this were as the daughter on The Bill Engvall Show and in the Charlize Theron bummer The Burning Plain), along with her fellow cast of miserablists, keep it dialed down and avoid the condescending Sundance Film Festival poverty-wallow that so many downbeat indie films try on like a substitute for depth. Remember Spitfire Grill? This isn't that.

How They Kept It Real: It's tough to make a movie about how the real other half lives without doing something ridiculous. If your subject is rich people you can make those mistakes and no one gets upset. But when you're shooting poverty there's a tendency among filmmakers to focus on the worst of the specifics just for visual fetish's sake. So according to what I've read about the production, they spent a long time in the Ozarks just getting the details right, shooting in homes of cast members and hiring locals as actors. And I can personally vouch from having grown up with more than a few people quite similar to these characters that they got it pretty darn right, like Gummo minus the humor. At times I felt like I was watching a documentary about some of my cousins.

Animals Were, In Fact, Harmed During The Making Of This Motion Picture: Be warned that there is squirrel hunting and skinning taking place in this movie. Real squirrels. Because you can't make a squirrel-melt sandwich on white bread from the Piggly Wiggly without the meat.

Most Memorable And Serious Threat-Of-Domestic-Violence One-Liner That You'll Want To Turn Into Your Own Personal Jokey Catchphrase: Uttered by the terrifying uncle (John Hawkes, from Me and You and Everyone We Know) whose name is Teardrop: "I said 'shut up' once already with my mouth."

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