REVIEW: The Girl

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The Girl
Directed by: David Riker
Written by: David Riker (screenplay)
Starring: Abbie Cornish, Maritza Santiago Hernandez, Will Patton and Angeles Cruz

There’s a scene in The Girl, David Riker’s ferociously personal film about immigration, that serves as a more scathing and succinct indictment of American policy than almost any news story could.  Ashley (Abbie Cornish) has recently discovered that her border-crossing semi-truck driving father (Will Patton) smuggles in illegal immigrants from Mexico with his legal corporate cargo.  The point of his character is to illustrate how corporations have an easier time crossing the border than people.

The Girl is anchored by a fantastic performance from Cornish, a mother with a son in foster care who turns to smuggling illegal immigrants across the border for extra cash.  She works at a Wal Mart-like megastore and is a recovering alcoholic, but Riker’s handling of her desperation is compassionate.  Most of the screenplay is overtly political and Riker does little formally to mask this, so it can at times feel a little too heavy-handed, but Cornish, Patton and the young newcomer Maritza Santiago Hernandez bring crucial humanity to it.

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REVIEW: Winter’s Bone

Winter’s Bone
Directed by: Debra Granik
Written by: Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini (screenplay), Daniel Woodrell (novel)
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Dale Dickey

In the realm of regional specific tales of mortality, Winter’s Bone is endowed with the element that puts it in the caliber of every other movie in this subgenre: hollowness.

Just like the dryness in Frozen River or the arid feeling in No Country for Old Men, the film holds an empty feeling that results from holding itself to the conventions of convention-bucking indie cinema. The conventions rely on being as minimalistic and realistic as possible, which is indeed interesting and brave, but results in a complete lack of tension, which is key for a character based thriller. Continue reading