When I watched Hunger Games, I was impressed with Jennifer Lawrence, and was curious to know what else she had done, and came across Winter’s Bone.
Winter’s Bone is a gripping movie about harsh life in the Ozark Mountains, and pretty much launched the career of Jennifer Lawrence. She had done some earlier work in TV and movies, but this one had the film critics sit up and take notice of her. It wasn’t long after this that she did the Hunger Games series.
In Winter’s Bone, Lawrence played the character Ree Dolly, a teenage girl whose father made his living being involved in the illegal meth trade. Apparently meth cooking was about the only profitable career in this backwards rural area. He put up the family house as collateral for a court appearance, but had gone missing and had been killed by the local meth cartel. Ree, who was never really close to her father anyway, needed to find enough of his body to present as evidence of his death, or the county would foreclose on the house, and Ree would be evicted, along with her mother, a younger brother, and a younger sister.
The problem was that Ree’s poking around and asking questions was something the local people didn’t like, least of all those connected with the drug trade. She gets a little help from her uncle, Teardrop (played well by John Hawkes), but largely has to pursue the issue on her own, risking her life in the process. The term Winter’s Bone is a reference to a dog that just won’t stop poking around and constantly digging for a bone in winter.
What’s also interesting are some similarities between Ree Dolly and Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games). Ree is a rugged, resourceful outdoor girl who’s familiar with roaming the woods. Her father is dead, her mother is rather dysfunctional, she’s trying to protect two younger siblings, has an uncle who’s similar to the broken Haymitch, lives in a poverty-stricken rural area, and has to deal with people who might kill her. For Lawrence, Winter’s Bone was almost a warmup for Hunger Games.
While most of the main characters are played by actors, many of the lesser characters and extras were just local people from where the filming was done. Jennifer Lawrence had to struggle to even get the part of Ree, as the director and producer thought she was too pretty for the part. Lawrence auditioned wearing no makeup, dirty, grungy clothes, and unkempt hair in order to convince them otherwise. She also did the Ozark accent pretty well. It was hinted in the book that Ree might be a lesbian, but Lawrence downplayed that angle in the movie. She was nominated for an Oscar, and the movie itself had four Oscar nominations.
The two kids above with Jennifer Lawrence were not actors, but locals on set. The house that they're sitting in front of is the house in the movie that's being foreclosed on, and in reality belongs to a grandmother of the two kids. Lawrence said that since the kids weren't actors, she had to walk them through role-playing for the scenes, but they all became friends.