Tuesday, August 23, 2011

For Richer For Poorer

So on Sunday I was doing my computer thing... a little blogging, a little reading, a little typing... and on the side I decided to run a movie. I opened Netflix, looked at recommendations, and under Indie movies found one called Winter's Bone.


It was about a teenage girl, dirt poor. Her father had left them to cook meth. Her mom went fairly nuts.. not wild insane nuts, but crawl inside and get unresponsive nuts... she has a younger brother and a younger sister who desperately need caring for. Right at the beginning she takes her horse to the neighbors' to ask if they can keep it—they don't have money for hay.

She's teaching her siblings to hunt so they can survive
And then the police show up. Her dad has jumped bail. He signed over the house she and her family live in to get out (even though the worthless lout left it years earlier), and if he doesn't show up in court the next week, they lose it. She decides she will find him.  And it is quite a morass of secretive (mostly related, mostly also meth connected) lowlifes...

Now this movie sometimes moved a little slow—it was subtle. Not high action for the most part. But MAN, it tugged at me. The situation was so dire. What this poor girl had to take on was so heavy It was just a really great story of the power of will and the determination to take care of those who depended on her.


And it got me thinking...

See, last week, I got into a conversation about classics we didn't like... and of course there Falkner is my biggie, but that's beside the point... what it reminded me of was not liking The Great Gatsby. It isn't the same 'oh Digression, I can't read this crap' that I feel for Falkner. It was more an 'oh my Digression, how can I give a crap about these spoiled pampered people?'


I think you see where I'm going here.


Now there are exceptions... I have rich people stories I can get along with... say... Bonfire of the Vanities... *cough*

Actually, my favorite book has nobility—War and Peace is royalty... But think about the heart strings pulled in Les Miserables... How a stolen loaf of bread FOR NEED, leads to all that...


As for me, this is more compelling...
Now I know some people read to escape and pretend they ARE the characters... they like stories about beautiful people with lots of money. But I just CAN'T CARE for the most part. I think I need sympathy and I don't have a lot for people who get most of their life handed to them. I also can't get behind stories of rags to riches, really, as I don't see riches ALONE as a worthy goal, though I DO see causing justice and ending up with riches as often enjoyable. Mostly though, I can't value stories that value money, unless it is from the perspective of having none (because that's realistic—you need a certain amount to survive)

(and I definitely recommend the movie, by the way)


So what about you? Do you have a strong preference for one kind of story or another?


25 comments:

mooderino said...

I was just bemoaning the lack of quality films in my last blog post, totally forgot about this one. A great flick.

mood
Moody Writing
@mooderino

Christine Murray said...

I LOVED Winter's Bone. One of the most moving films I've ever seen. When the credits rolled, you couldn't just click straight back in to reality, could you? That film stays with you.

I liked the ending too. Satisfying, but not incongruous with the plot. In my top five, without a doubt.

Enid Wilson said...

They are remaking Gatsby. I hope they make it well. And I love Les Mis, watched it so many times that I lost count.

Every Savage Can Reproduce

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I did like Gatsby, but that's because I identified with Nick Carraway, the narrator. And I loved Bonfire of the Vanities...and the idea that one wrong turn on the road could change a life!

James King said...

Interesting question. I guess I prefer the gritty over the glitzy. I get impatient with the problems of the rich.

Old Kitty said...

Oooh I think for me the most important is if I relate to the dilemma at hand whatever the setting. So they can be dirt poor or super rich - but if they are suffering from matters of the heart then I'm there holding their hand most NAKEDly!

I really must see this film - it's out now on dvd so I may just rent!

Take care
x

Adina West said...

I'd never actually thought about my preferences in this way before - but I think I always prefer a bit of moral integrity to my story, and a tale focused solely on the world of the wealthy (unless in a critical way) doesn't often offer much in that regard.

Having said that, when I watch a movie at the moment it's all about escapism for me, so I don't mind a rags to riches story - as long as the riches aren't in themselves the end goal, as you pointed out.

Jessica Bell said...

Anything that gets me emotionally invested will have my interest. This movie sounds good!

Jan Morrison said...

I love Winter's Bone - fantastic movie - so dark, Faulkner with a bit of Dickens...
As to favourite types of stories - nah, I just need to engage with the protagonist. And not necessarily like either (thinking of Remains of the Day). I can take a lot more pain and violence in books than I can on the screen. The visual is overwhelming for me. I do like to see some sort of redemption. I keep thinking of two different movies that I disliked - one was Shallow Graves - I simply disliked every person in it. I liked the apartment better than anyone and didn't care who killed who - just get it over with. The other was The Land - an Irish movie of great sorrow -I'm sure it was a perfect tragedy but I find some sorts of longings just plain dumb. A Winter's Bone was redemptive - it reminded me of Orpheus - especially the boat bit...

Hart Johnson said...

Moody-definitely was, eh?

Christine-It was a good ending, wasn't it--it fit really well, and obviously stuck with me. I even suggested my daughter watch it.

Enid-when I looked for Gatsby pics I saw there was to be a modern one with Leonardo DiCaprio, and as a movie, I might like it okay.

Elizabeth-Yeah--that cumuppance is the angle I can like money stories on...

James-that's exactly it. I want to thunk them and say 'poor baby. this problem is of your own creation.'

Jenny-a good story really is key, but I guess my heart just doesn't pitter pat as hard if LIFE isn't hard.

Adina-I am definitely less picky on movies--I can get into escaping there. But the ones that really GET ME... have some real hardship to them.

Jessica-definitely a great movie!

Hart Johnson said...

Jan-I think that's it--I have a hard time engaging with a pampered protagonist... But redemption can make ANY story good--definitely agree there.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Sounds like a good film.

I loved Gatsby. The psychoses of those characters were very well defined. And Gatsby did come from nothing. Yes, there is a lot of rich people fussiness, but I think Fitzgerald handled it well.

LOVE Les Mis. The book, film, and especially the play.

I enjoy reading all types of books as long as the characters have depth and the story is riveting.

L.G.Smith said...

Winter's Bone was fantastic. But I don't think I make a distinction about whether I'll like a story based on the economic circumstances of the characters.

It's interesting because I'm watching Downton Abbey right now, a Masterpiece miniseries about a wealthy English family and the servants who work in the house. Kind of an upstairs/downstairs story. I'm invested in every single character because of the conflicts that arise in their lives, rich or poor. And Maggie Smith is just a riot as the old dowager.

Megan Bostic said...

Winter's Bone was fabulous. I don't think I have a preference when it comes to stories. I have eclectic taste. I do like characters I can either relate to or feel sympathetic toward. I also like to see strong women, but not bitchy. So there's that I guess.

LTM said...

you know, it depends on the story. I don't like just overtly manipulative movies about poor people... like oh, shame on you for not having it THIS bad. Go kill yourself now.

At the same time, I can't stand movies like you say about bored rich people who need to learn to be grateful and see what they can do to give back...

So it depends on the story. :D

And haven't seen it, but your Winter's Bone description reminds me of Legacy~ :D

SP Sipal said...

I'm SO glad to hear you discuss this, Hart, because I've had a YA book idea for several months now that I've been wanting to pursue, but wondered if people would like it because it focuses on a teen living currently (not previously) in poverty. I wondered if the lack of fantasy element would repel readers. And my teen's case is no where near as bad as Winter's Bones.

So glad I read this! :-)

Hart Johnson said...

Michael-Part of my Gatsby problem may have been from reading it at 15, but I also think part of it is my Pacific Northwest sensibilities... that 'discrimination against non-blue bloods' is just annoying to me... I mean who would WANT to fit in with people like that?

LG-I like that contrast stuff (and a British accent makes up for a lot--I adore Maggie Smith)

Megan-I am totally with you on that strong but not bitchy thing! Snarky, yes, bitchy no.

Leigh-I don't like it preachy, either, but I like really understanding what it's like. And I don't think I spotted similaries with Legacy! Maybe because the actual movie is so deeply immersed in Appalachia.

Susan-you should totally write that! I think a compelling story that is set in poverty is really good for young people--a little window to what life can be like builds compassion.

Michael Offutt said...

Breaking Bad on AMC is about a guy that becomes a meth cook in order to leave money for his family as he's dying of cancer. It's fantastic film noir.

Cold As Heaven said...

I'm a big fan of Russian classics, and like the stories about the Russian aristocracy from the tsar era. Some of the best books (Dostoyevsky) are about noble, but poor people >:)

Cold As Heaven

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Never thought about it that way. However, I have seen Winter's Bone, and it's powerful.

lynnrush said...

Wow. I'll have to add this to my Netflix list. It does sound like a heart-tugger, huh? Those aren't my favorite kind of movies, but once in a while...You just need one. Right?

:) Thanks for the post!

Hart Johnson said...

Michael-I've seen the first season of Breaking Bad and that is powerful stuff--what people can be pushed into in certain circumstances.

CaH-actually, I like that set up--noble but poor, as it sets up a lot of tension to meet certain expectations without means.

Alex-it is, isn't it?

Lynn-it is definitely worth it, and at least at the moment, is on instant watch.

Clarissa Draper said...

I haven't seen the movie but it would tug at me too. I don't like movies where people are getting rich...unless they're breaking into a casino or bank in the most clever way. However, that being said, I did love The Great Gatsby and I'm not sure why.

JohnnyB Dungeon Master said...

Sounds like a desperate to survive story. Not sure I am up for to dark/sad of a tale to watch it soon. As for the classics, Gatsby was just a struggle to get through. I really had no attachment to the characters. But I will say that the book from high school that still sticks with me was "I am the Cheese". It still haunts me sometimes.

GigglesandGuns said...

I like or dislike them as people in the book. If I believe in them ti was good writing. If I don't believe the writing wasn't good to me.
Characters only stay with me for the book.