I read the paragraph description of this movie last week while passing our art theater downtown and decided this was a must see. Last night I went and was not disappointed. It’s about a responsible teenage girl tangling with the Ozarks version of the Sopranos who she happens to be distantly related to. Kind of a Cormac McCarthy novel, before his novels got cinematic, meets The Wire, only set in the country.
There’s all these scenes and characters I can’t pry loose the day after. Kids riding a skateboard on smoothed dirt. A neighbor walking into the road with a skinning knife in hand and a skinless deer over his shoulder as the law shows up to warn of eviction. So much tension: of violence, of poverty, of thinly protected innocence. I can’t remember seeing extreme white poverty so painstakingly portrayed on screen.
I met a friend outside the theater and she lamented that the film’s just going to reinforce Northerners’ stereotypes of Southerners. Perhaps. The film uses our prejudices, the city dweller’s fear of the country, of poverty, to crank up the tension to the point that it was like sitting through a horror movie. To me it felt brutally honest. Take a culture that teaches it’s children how to be deadly with a rifle and skilled with a skinning knife in order to survive on very little money. Add methamphetamines- their use, production, and trade. They make the corner thugs in The Wire look like pussycats.
I’ve become obsessed by John Hawkes’ character, Teardrop. Hawkes is a goofier looking Adrian Brody type who played the jewish merchant in Deadwood. His characters are usually harmless and somewhat constipated. As Teardrop he sports an array of prison tatoos, including a small cross just below his eye like a demented clown. He carries himself with a deadly, not to be f-ed with mojo that’s captivating. It’s an incredible transformation that somehow reminds me of the character my father became when he took me hunting. The usually lumbering and cheerful JGM would emerge silently from the forest to fetch me from my deer stand like death itself. In the woods my dad is Jack the Ripper to animal kind. Luckily for the rest of the world, he stayed out of the crank cooking business.
So, if you’re into real life horror and cold cinematic beauty, check it out.