TRUE GRIT (2010)
It's no secret that I'm a Coen Brother's fan. I recently highlighted them as number 5 in my list of Top Ten Killer Directors. Fargo (1996), O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), Blood Simple (1984)--time and again, they've churned out classic after classic. And so, when I saw the trailer for True Grit, I was hooked. Granted, I've never seen the John Wayne version, nor have a read the book, but as a Coen Brothers die-hard, I was into it. What I got, I still have mixed feelings about.
The film starts off with the conflict: the young but persistent Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) has taken it on herself to hunt down Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), the man who robbed and murdered her father. She enlists the help of the washed up Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), who gets a lot of slack for being old, being a drunk, and, oh...killing people unnecessarily. A lot. Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) is also on a quest to track down Tom Chaney and claim the earnings, so he joins them to form an unlikely trio of three people who really don't want to be near each other.
Overall, it ran a lot like O Brother, Where Art Thou?. The people on a very barebones quest, meandering about trying to find some semblance of direction. Honestly, they spent so much of the movie turned around, I'm surprised they found Chaney at all. The thing is, it's a movie filled with long and strange pauses, with scenes that just seem to stretch on. Which is fine by me, because the dialogue was fun and the characters were enjoyable to be around, so I didn't mind lingering from scene to scene with them. It just didn't give the film as a whole a very tight feeling. And then just when everyone is "solving their character problems" and I think the plot is becoming a little kitschy, the Coen Brothers manage to turn it on its head. Suddenly, what was a blatantly obvious film about revenge and perseverance turns into something else: a more subtle and tender story of loyalty, the bonds of friendship, redemption and growing up. It sounds cliché, but I think the Coen Brothers did eventually turn it around with a very nicely placed snakebite.
As for the actors. Little Hailee Steinfeld was just stunning. She was hands down the best part of the movie. I believed her every second she was on the screen. She played a bold young girl, without coming off as pretentious, and her chemistry with the other actors was great. Especially with Matt Damon, who I actually liked in this movie, even though I'm usually not that big of a fan of him. Someone give this man more comedic roles. That said, his character had a pseudo-romance with little Mattie Ross, and while it stayed harmless and didn't go into any potentially pedophile awkward space, it did pop up here and there with a couple twisted spanking scenes and gave a little something interesting to their dynamic. Jeff Bridges was Jeff Bridges. Always brilliant.
The one character I would've liked to see more of was Cogburn's nemesis with woolly legs, Lucky Ned. He seemed to have come out of nowhere and they gave the impression that there was a history there, but it was never really explained. As much as I appreciate subtly, I'm not getting any rewards if this epic fight out with Lucky Ned is simply...an epic fight out, and I don't really have anything to back up their strife with. I was waiting for a "he poked out my eye" story, but that never happened. I suppose that might've been too much, but just a little something-something and I'd have been happy.
|Image from yourmoviebuddy.blogspot.com|
Lastly, the film itself ended on a bit of a flat note for me. I really enjoyed the journey, and the characters, and getting to know them. The standoff with Cogburn and the four men was riveting, and then I loved the whole snakebite scene. However...well. Alright. I'll just say it. I got emotional with the horse. Not going to lie. Kill all the men you want--but Little Blackie! I was mourning, and the Coen Brothers offered no relief. And then I'm fine with an unresolved ending. Really, I am. The cutting-off-her-arm thing was cool. I was all for that. But overall, leaving without word of LaBoeuf, and then going to see Cogburn only to not see Cogburn...it just didn't seem necessary to me. Like, we learned that she lost her arm and never got married. That was about it. I'm all for following up with the characters, I just felt like we could've used a little more than that. And actually-14-year-old Hailee was a much better actor than the woman who played grown up Mattie Ross. Is all I'm saying.
What do you guys think? Did this movie have true grit?