Summer Movies: Three Indie Gems

Jennifer Lawrence in the independent film "Winter's Bone."
Jennifer Lawrence in the independent film "Winter's Bone."
Roadside Attractions

As for what's worth seeing at the movies this summer, David Edelstein suggests ... think small:

Far be it from me to lecture you on how much better some little indie movies can be for you than mega-budget studio junk, like "The A Team" and "Sex and the City 2."

But when you start to get that "BP feeling," like blobs of gunk are floating in your head, you might actually crave something sharp and true to eat through all the muck.

Three American indies either in release or soon to be are marvelous. They're directed by women, which might be a coincidence, or might suggest there are ways of seeing the world that rarely make it to the multiplex.

Consider Nicole Holofcener's "Please Give," about a woman (played by Catherine Keener) who's suddenly haunted by her own prosperity:

Mother: "I am not spending $200 for a pair of jeans for my teen-aged daughter when there are 45 homeless people living on our street."
Daughter: "What does that have to do with anything? They don't
want jeans!"

It's satire with a heart, sentiment with a sting.

Opening July 9 is Lisa Cholodenko's wickedly funny "The Kids Are All Right," starring Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as a couple - yes, they're married, to each other - building a healthy, happy, conventional family . . . until their kids seek out the sperm donor.

Son: "Why did you donate sperm?"
Dad: "It seemed like a lot more fun than donating blood."

And now we come to Debra Granik's harshly beautiful "Winter's Bone."

It's based on a great novel by Daniel Woodrell, who lives in the Missouri Ozarks, not far from the Arkansas border, where the movie is set.

Jennifer Lawrence plays 17-year-old Ree Dolly, whose has to care for her brother and sister. They're barely getting by, and then news comes that Jessup, her dad, has apparently skipped bail.

She's determined to locate her father, but it turns out no one wants her to find him, alive or dead. And so begins an odyssey that's mythic in its intensity.

She's warned off, turned away, even beaten by people who are distant relations, the distance outweighing the relation.

Ree can't afford to show vulnerability, not even to herself. All through "Winter's Bone" are people like Dale Dickey's matriarch, so unfathomably mean we search their faces for a glimmer of sympathy or kinship.

For all the horror of "Winter's Bone," it's the drive toward life that lingers in the mind. Ree Dolly is a great American heroine, and this is - so far, anyway - the movie of the year.

For more info:
"The Kids Are All Right" (Focus Features Website)
"Please Give" (Sony Pictures Classics Website)
"Winter's Bone" (Roadside Attractions Website)
The Projectionist (David Edelstein's Movie Blog)