Posts Tagged ‘Courtney Hunt’

17th March
2009
written by Mad Cow

Rated R for some language (But not for all the smoking. Maybe the raters didn’t notice. In case you haven’t noticed, ratings are not based on any regular standards. See This Movie Has Not Yet Been Rated.)

Cow’s Rating:

This independent film, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, is the debut film written and directed by Courtney Hunt.  The film was nominated for an Oscar for best original screenplay and star Melissa Leo was nominated for best actress. It’s a dark movie, literally, about two rather desperate women and how they end up working together, each for her own survival. You will have to rent it. We have not yet reached the cultural moment when a movie like this even shows up for long at middle-brow art theatres. But the recognition it’s gotten gives me hope. I can’t wait for Hunt’s next movie.

Ray Eddy (Leo) is a dirt-poor white woman trying to support her two sons, T.J. (Charlie McDermott) and Ricky (James Reilly) after her gambling addict husband has run off with their life savings. She has a job that simply doesn’t pay enough. Her dream is to move out of her trailer home into a new “double-wide” that also has inside running water, which they don’t happen to have. But most days she just wants to offer something more than popcorn and Tang for dinner. She stumbles on a way to get money.

Ray meets Lila Littlewolf (Misty Upham), a young Mohawk widow whose mother-in-law has stolen her baby. She works in the local bingo parlor. She doesn’t see well because she can’t afford glasses. Ray is persuaded to help Lila smuggle illegal immigrants across the border from Canada, by driving over a frozen river. The women are go-betweens and get paid cash. The illegals are Chinese and Pakistanis.

The suspense and timing – not to mention the music and dark atmosphere – of this movie keep you at the edge of your seat almost throughout. Lila and Ray are not friends and find out about each other’s lives through necessary conversation that is decidedly not something one would call “bonding.” They don’t see eye to eye. It’s a surprise to Ray to hear Lila say that because Ray is white, she is more likely to be ignored or given leniency by the police. Lila is not moved by Ray’s need to buy a Christmas present for Ricky. But they move on.

An incredible turning point in the movie is when the two women find themselves in a crisis in the midst of what is already a dangerous mission. They decide simultaneously to do something harrowing but fundamentally right before they try to save themselves. Their humanity kicks in and their resolve is womanly. Yet the utter honesty of the film prevails. Things do change after this, but the women are not “best friends” now. Bravo.

This movie is intense, hard, fierce, and decidedly unsentimental. My spouse and I had to watch it on DVD in two sittings, leaving the last 20 minutes for the second day. Yet it wasn’t violent or brutal in the usual sense. Just real. See it.