Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) is a girl who lives with her younger siblings and her sick mother in a house that’s going to be taken away from her if she doesn’t get her drug dealing father to show for court. The law can’t find Ree’s father, so Ree sets out on this journey to find him and make sure that she keeps her family in a situation that they can survive while at the same time.
There are many films that delve into the world of mid-America that’s become impoverished and where the world turns to the illegal lifestyle, however, there aren’t many that deal with characters as earnest and understanding as the character of Ree Dolly. She knows exactly what kinds of hornets’ nest she’s about to start kicking but at the same time she knows she has to start kicking or the law is going to come and evict her and her family. She goes to the head of the drug dealing crews of the area and you can see the hesitation in her step but at the same time you can see her bravery as she makes each step knowing it’s something she has to do. The film is filled with these moments of bravery that I just love to see. She isn’t asking for anyone to turn themselves in or tell her about anything that would incriminate anyone, she just wants her father so that she, and her family, can live.
Even though the movie shows a lot of female strength from scene to scene, at the same time we’re reminded of her place in the social network that she’s a part of. When we see her visit her uncle, Teardrop (John Hawkes), and she’s pestering him over and over about the whereabouts of his brother you see her brutally reminded that even though they’re family that doesn’t save her from any harsh treatment. It’s a man’s world and she knows it.
What really makes this movie great for me though, is that at its core it’s a detective story. Ree needs to go around and find her father by interrogating all of these people that don’t need or want to talk to her. Even though she isn’t interrogating them like a brilliant private investigator like Philip Marlowe (A Long Goodbye) or Brendan (Brick) she’s still trying her best to extract this information from these people. Watching her go from spot to spot getting tid bits of information, not only about her father but also about what generally is going on in this small mountain community is just so intriguing to me.
One scene that still think didn’t really need to be in the film, even though they did a really good job of using less effort than most directors/writers – whoever initiated this idea – was the scene where Ree goes to the Army recruitment interview. It felt like an advertisement for the US Army, and if you watch any American television you see more than enough of those, which I just didn’t need. I think it would’ve been better served with a short dialogue with Ree and her friend Gail (Lauren Sweetser) where Gail asks if she tried signing up and Ree responded with what happened in the interview. However, I think of that as more of a personal quibble than anything else.
Overall it’s the redressing the noir detective genre with this country setting that makes everything all nice a new for everyone who’s familiar enough with the genre will be enjoying it like it’s something completely new.
IMDB says 7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes says 94%
I say 9.0/10