What movie was that...?

06 January 2011

True Grit

directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

It’s about American as you can get. A classic Western tale re-imagined by Joel and Ethan Coen, complete with some of the finest performances you are sure to see this year, but True Grit has something that many Coen films do not possess: an ending that, like it or not, is as nice and neat a package as you will find, Coenwise. Now, to say that the film is the stronger for it would be a deceit, and as much as I wanted to drink it all in, I found myself wishing the film had ended about 20 minutes before it actually did. The Coens certainly aren’t ones to pander, or cave, or even ironically give in to popular pleading, so I’m not sure what to make of this out of character and deflatingly pedestrian dénouement. Maybe they were trying something new. But man, oh man, Barry Pepper and Josh Brolin were out of sight in small roles that asked for quite a bit from these fine actors. Brolin must have spent the time he was out of the Hollywood limelight to hone his skills, much the way Bruce Wayne did between pages 1 and 2 of Batman, issue 1, returning to film as an unrivaled master of the craft. Barry Pepper has always been a tragically underrated talent, for even his most mediocre and forgettable films feature amazingly strong and subtle talent on his part. I heart you, Mr. P. And Brolin, you had me at “No dead bodies for Da Da.” Jeff Bridges is superb, per usual, but the film’s warm glow resides in the stern, stubborn and stupendous talent of Hailee Steinfeld, who comes out on top in nearly every scene. Is True Grit a classic? I don’t think so, and when measured by typical Coen standards, the film falls short. But that doesn’t make it a hell of a film and well worth the watch. And Mr. Damon, I haven’t forgotten about how excellent you were, either. Those of you with a Roger Deakins fetish will do well to feast your eyes on yet another film he photographs like a champ (though there were a few shots near the end that I wasn’t particularly keen on), and Carter Burwell’s score is badass as all get out. Go see it, already, fans of Westerns, Coens, and all things great. You won’t be disappointed.

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