At 17 Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) is wise and responsible beyond her years. With a catatonic mother and a missing father, she’s had to drop out of school to take care of her younger brother and sister. They live in a rundown home with small patch of aged forest in rural Southern Missouri. They have each other and the house, but little else.
In the Ozarks, there aren’t many career choices. Often, it’s the Army or drugs. Ree hopes to join the army but her dad Jessup long ago choose the drug trade. He’s always running into the law but in his last arrest, he’s missed his trial. It’s never affected his family, though this time he’s put up the land and house as bail collateral. If he doesn’t show up in a week’s time; the family will lose everything.
Ree embarks on hunt for her dad. She lives in small but spread out community. In those parts everyone seems related but that doesn’t help. If anything they’re more closed to telling Ree anything. Worse yet they tell her stop looking. Even her hard-as-nails uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes) tells her leave it alone as he’s likely dead. Undeterred, she keeps pushing until the people push back.
The film is beautifully shot in Missouri Ozarks. The depictions of the Dolly family and their neighbours are very jarring. It amazes me every time to see images of American poor.
Wow, kudos to director Debra Granik and her amazing script. This film was refreshing in its setting and film making prowess. She’s taken a gritty suspenseful urban crime drama and planted it in the middle of Ozarks, weaving an intricate mystery that’s very satisfying. Using a few bits of dialogue and smart scene composition, Granik has the rare ability to tell an entire back-story in 5 minutes. You immediately understand what drives these people, the longings of Ree, and just how tough their world is.
The cast gave some outstanding performances. For these roles, it could easily have fallen into caricature. John Hawkes is excellent as Ree’s uncle Teardrop. There was never any doubt that he’s an honourable man but not one to be messed with. The best performance was from Jennifer Lawrence. She could have played Ree with great melancholy; instead she infuses the character with determination and strength. In the scene where she asks her drugged up mother for help… wow.