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Winter of Frozen Dreams (DVD Review)

5 Apr, 2009 By: Billy Gil

Winter of Frozen Dreams

Prebook 4/7/09; Street 5/5/09
$26.95 DVD
Rated ‘R’
Stars Thora Birch, Keith Carradine, Brendan Sexton III, Dean Winters.

True-crime lovers will fall hard for Winter of Frozen Dreams, a portrayal of convicted murderer Barbara Hoffman that is indeed chilling in its ambiguity.

The film, directed by Eric Mandelbaum and based on Winter of Frozen Dreams: The True Story of Passion, Greed and Murder in Madison, Wisconsin, by Karl Harter, tells of brilliant biochemistry student Hoffman, who was a prostitute on the side to make ends meet. Fierce and calculating, Hoffman seems to have it all under control until a client ends up dead in her house.

Thora Birch, terrific in such modern classics as American Beauty and Ghost World, is no less revelatory in Winter of Frozen Dreams. Birch displays one of the signs of a great actor — it’s all in her eyes, conveying a simmering brew of cunning, arrogance, genuine care and malice.

The other actors are no less great, including Oscar-winner Keith Carradine, who excels as Det. Lulling on the case after Hoffman, and Dean Winters (“Oz”) as her menacing pimp, Ray. Perhaps the biggest surprise is Brendan Sexton III — you may remember him as Dawn Wiener’s teenage bully in Welcome to the Dollhouse — as Barbara’s meek boyfriend, Jerry; his scenes, equal parts desperation and devotion, are among the film’s strongest.

Winter of Frozen Dreams occasionally strains for credibility, perhaps due to the tenuous nature of the case — Hoffman has maintained both her innocence and silence on the matter. But whether Hoffman really committed the murders at hand is irrelevant; the filmmakers’ attention to detail is far more interesting and will have thriller fans rewatching to try to get behind Hoffman’s eyes.

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