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Down to the Bone

  • Film

Time Out says

An award winner for best director and best actress at last year's Sundance, Debra Granik's debut feature is the kind of movie that was synonymous with the American independent-film scene before the Tarantino-ites temporarily took over. In fact, the movie so closely follows the template of a stereotypically earnest "Sundance film" that you'd think the talent had followed a checklist. The narrative about a working-class mom (Farmiga) trying to kick her coke addiction fits the fest-approved boilerplate of chronicling quietly desperate lives, with empty Wal-Mart parking lots and dilapidated houses fulfilling the bleak-Americana quota. There's even a gritty lo-fi look that screams indie realism. That the film took home a few statuettes was hardly shocking.

What is surprising, however, is how effectively Granik and her cast use these recycled elements in telling their tale of rehab and remission. The director focuses on the minutiae of the 12-step recovery process with a documentarian's eye; she knows that details like the way NarcAnon members prepare a cup of coffee can accomplish more than dogmatic dialogue. The real find here is Farmiga, whose performance is one long, ragged glory. When her character ends up falling down a deeper rabbit hole because of a male nurse (Dillon), the subtle way she shifts from hopeful to heartbroken hits a raw nerve. The actor's commitment to exploring this woman's redemption from the bottom up is what truly earns Down to the Bone the right to its name. (Opens Fri; Quad.)
—David Fear

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