After reading Winter's Bone, my book club got together to watch the movie version. After the viewing, we realized that we had watched the cut-for-television version as opposed to the original theater version, so I do think we missed some parts and my take on it probably isn't complete. So #1 observation: I hate how movies get cut to fit commercial breaks for television. It really takes away from their original message. And since, in my opinion, turning books into movies often takes away from the original message of the book in so many ways, this is kind of doubly painful.
That being said, let's start with the good. I was highly impressed at how the movie stayed true to the original dialogue of the book. It was practically spot-on. That was an incredible strength and carried the movie a long way.
The other major strength was Jennifer Lawrence. Before watching the movie, I didn't realize that "Winter's Bone" had been her breakout role. But she did a fantastic job capturing Ree's strength and determination, as well as her downtrodden circumstances. Two thumbs up to Lawrence. Not so much approval to the wardrobing consultant, who kept dressing her in jeans, reindeer sweaters, and an Army jacket (all of which made her look very cute, but that's beside the point), as opposed to the skirts and dresses and old cast-off Mamaw's coat the the Ree of the book favored. I felt like we lost a lot of the subtle spirit of Ree there.
I also didn't think that the character of Teardrop was nearly as good. He just wasn't scary enough. Where were the teardrop tattoos that gave him his name? And the missing ear and long scar? He pulled off mildly trashy, but not terrifying.
Likewise with the bar scene. In the book, he pulls Ree out of bed and takes her to this terrible dive of a bar. She's so drugged up on pain pills that she's barely conscious. Plus she can't see out of one of her eyes. And she's in her pajamas. She's completely vulnerable. There's this terrible sense that anything could happen to her. In the book, it's a perfectly nice place, decorated with Christmas lights, for goodness sake. She has some mild bruising, but that's it. (That's another thing. In the book, she basically looked like raw meat after her beating. In the movie, mild bruising.) She's totally conscious, walking around, talking to people, fully dressed. No sense of imminent danger. Completely lost its impact.
And there were weird substitutions in the movie. Like when Ree and Gail went to visit her dad's old girlfriend.... instead of her being alone, there was a party, complete with music, going on. Um, no. There was no joy in the book. What was that about? And Ree looking for Thump Milton at a hog show. That would indicate joy, fun, and disposable income. No, no, and no. And in the movie, everyone seemed to have pets. Again, disposable income and some modicum of happiness--no and no. And in the movie, Ree's youngest brother magically became a sister, several years younger. NO. In the book, it was so powerful to have the two boys, only 18 months apart, always together. I felt like changing these things really took away from the power of the story.
But the biggest change of all was that there WAS NO SNOW in the movie. WHAT?!? The snow was so incredibly pervasive throughout the book. It was in every scene. It shaped the story. I mean, hello? The story is called Winter's Bone. The snow was this overwhelming symbol, demonstrating the hopelessness of the characters' lives. Yet there was not a single snowflake in the movie. BIG FAIL, producers.
Basically, I felt like the producers of this movie must have read the book and said, "Hmm, has potential, but we're going to have to nice it up a lot." In which case they should have just left it alone, because obviously, Winter's Bone is not a story that was meant to be "nice."
But what do I know? Apparently it was nominated for four Oscars.
Probably by people who hadn't read the book though. :)