Oh boy. Like Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland earlier this year, True Grit feels awfully sanitized when you compare it to the directors’ other works. Both this and Alice in Wonderland felt more studio made than any of the previous films the directors had before. I’d say that the Coens, being probably my favorite living directors at the moment, have a bit more artistic integrity than Burton, but with True Grit, it seems to be beginning to slacken. The film starts off with a flashback narration over the corpse of the Frank Ross aka Mattie Ross’s father. We know by the trailer that she’s determined to go after the murderer, a man by the name of Tom Chaney, who’s part of a gang. She enlists the help of two Marshalls – one Rooster Cogburn (played magnificently by Jeff Bridges) and La Beouf (played hilariously by Matt Damon). This unlikely bickering trio set off to bring Tom Chaney to justice.
That’s practically the plot for the film. No surprises. No twists or turns like the last three Coen Brothers film. True Grit has some wonderful cinematography, some tense editing, and greatly detailed set design and art direction. The film dampers in the exploration of the morality of men in a tough as nails society, but fails to say anything. Not a single scene stands out. The ending feels way too rushed. Everyone looks to be having a wonderful time, but nothing much actually happens in the length of the narrative. There’s some reflection on the past life of Rooster, but it never reaches a conclusion. As a visceral non-intellectual experience, the film fails as well. There are not a lot of action scenes and when there are some, they are usually pretty brief. The best part of the film for me was the snappy dialogue, especially the exchanges between La Beouf and Cogburn. Otherwise, the characters seemed pretty flat to me.
Hailee Steinfeld, the lead of the film, performs with unusual gusto that’s rarely seen in her age group of actors. But to play brave is one thing, to actually make a brave performance is another thing. In certain scenes, it’s quite obvious that she’s acting. She comes off as a bit precocious at times much like a similar age ranged actress in Dakota Fanning. But for what she did, she was serviceable. There are a few scenes near the end where she hits the ball out of a park. But it’s still a flawed performance that probably shouldn’t be considered for any serious awards. As said before, I particularly enjoyed the performances given by Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. These two actors may just be the most versatile in Hollywood. And they work brilliantly together. But my main problem with the film still stems from the direction. I could hardly tell this was a Coen Bros. film. In fact, a person next to me commented on how they were surprised to find out that they directed it. Sadly, I share the sentiment. It was definitely a well made movie, but I never found a strong emotional connection to the characters or the situations presented in the film. B
For Your Consideration:
- Best Actor in a Leading Role – Jeff Bridges
- Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Matt Damon
- Best Art Direction
- Best Cinematography
- Best Costumes
- Best Original Score
Ranking of the Coen Bros. Filmography:
- A Serious Man (A+)
- The Big Lebowski (A)
- No Country for Old Men (A-)
- Barton Fink (B+)
- True Grit (B)
- Fargo (B)
- Burn After Reading (B-)
- O Brother, Where Are Thou? (B-)
I’ve seen Raising Arizona, but can’t remember a single thing about it. I just bought Blood Simple and I will buy Miller’s Crossing soon. I own The Man Who Wasn’t There and will view it shortly.