The Coen Brothers have been on a winning streak for quite some time. Now the raves have been spooling over their remake of the John Wayne classic True Grit and I haven’t the faintest idea why—other than the fact that they are the Coen Brothers. Not to say this is a particularly bad movie by any means, but it practically left my mind about as quickly as it entered it.
Set in the 1880s, willful 14-year-old girl Matty Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) hires the wild one-eyed sheriff Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to track down her father’s murderer, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) en route through Indian territory. Texas Ranger LeBoeuf (Matt Damon) joins Matty and Rooster for the manhunt. LeBoeuf wants Chaney to hang in Texas for crimes committed in the state. Matty wants to see him at the end of the noose for her father’s murder. Let the trademark Coen banter ensue, as True Grit quickly evolves from its revenge western saga shell into a full blown comedy.
Yes, that’s right. True Grit is not the movie being advertised in TV spots. What we really have here is a witty, dialogue-driven comedy with sprinkles of violence. Very reminiscent of the Coen’s Fargo, I ate up the back-and-forth between Damon, Bridges, and Steinfeld. Steinfeld especially carries her own here, and I see Oscar smiling down on her fondly in the future. Much has been said about Bridges in the title role, and I have to say his interpretation of Cogburn is a puzzling one. His drawl becomes so mumbled and distorting that I had trouble sorting through his words. I think he finds the heart of the character, but I didn’t find his performance all that engaging. For me, the movie was really the Steinfeld show.
All of this admiration for the writing and comedy leaves me wondering where the ‘grit’ went. I enjoyed the Coen Brothers lighting a signature spark here, but I left True Grit craving for a little more drama—something eventful perhaps. The Coens grace us with a parody of a Western, and while the comedy no doubt worked out well, I felt like the movie came to a close in a bit of an incomplete fashion. Of course it ends in a shootout of good guys and bad guys, but there’s little intensity or excitement in the pursuit. Even Josh Brolin’s mug doesn’t make an appearance until the final ten minutes or so. True Grit is a well-made, well-written film that left a void unfulfilled.
Last 5 posts by Matt V
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