The last Coen brothers movie I saw was forgettable. I watched it around three months ago and when my husband brought it up in conversation on Monday night I had absolutely no recollection. But then, he couldn’t remember the title, and could only offer – “Remember it had that scene with the tornado at the end?” That didn’t help. All I could think of was Twister and I was pretty sure that’s not a Coen brothers film. I had to go and look it up. The film in question was A Serious Man. Once Google had jogged my memory I realised I had actually quite enjoyed it, but for some reason it just didn’t stick. Why is it some films just don’t stick?
True Grit is a bit stickier I think. I saw it two days ago and can still remember it. So far, so good!
It’s a western adapted from the Charles Portis novel of the same name. It’s the second film adaptation; the first was in 1969 and starred John Wayne. I haven’t read the book or seen the original film, but I was happier not to know the story going in as it made it more exciting.
I don’t really like westerns, in general. I think of them as being boys movies, full of boys doing boy stuff – cussin’ and shootin’ and what not. But this one is a bit different as the lead character is Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) a feisty fourteen year old girl who sets out to avenge her father’s death. She hires Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a somewhat crazy, drunken, one-eyed U.S. Marshal to help her on her quest to hunt down her father’s killer, while La Boeuf (Matt Damon) a Texas Ranger who’s after the same man for another crime tags along.
The dude Jeff Bridges is his usual cool self. Matt Damon is Matt Damon. But Hailee Steinfeld is the real star. Her first film, aged thirteen, and she gives such a calm, solid, unswervingly confident performance. It’s earned her a well-deserved best supporting actress nomination. The script is great too, full of deadpan humour. I thought the pacing of the film let it down a bit. It starts out well but towards the end it seems to really speed up. I felt like it rushed through the climactic scenes. I would have preferred if they were drawn out a bit more to increase the suspense. But I suppose if you’ve read the book or seen the original film the sense of suspense has already been compromised.
True Grit is up for a total of 10 Oscars but I don’t like its chances in any of the big categories. It’s not that it’s not a good film, it is, it’s just that there’s tough competition this year.
(Photo above borrowed from awardsdaily.com)
Random thoughts I had while watching this film – Wouldn’t it have been amazing to be in that part of America at that time with no roads or cars or noise or pollution. It would have been so peaceful and pristine. But on the other hand the people would have been a lot smellier as they didn’t wash themselves or their teeth or their clothes as much.
Fun facts I learned on the internet – The only Oscar John Wayne won was for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in the 1969 version of True Grit. Also, Joel and Ethan Coen have a younger sister called Deborah who is a psychiatrist in Minnesota.
The next western I’ll consider watching – Cowboys and Aliens