12.30.2010

TRUE GRIT.

Warning: Mild spoilers.

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As I come to the end of Western Month, I'd like to end with the film all of this was leading up to (though not as a part of 60/60, mind you). True Grit tells the story of Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), a 14-year-old girl whose father was killed in cold blood by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). With quick wit and a sharp mind, she eventually hires Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to hunt Chaney down and bring him to justice. Along for the ride, however, is Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) who wants to bring Chaney in for the death of a politician back in Texas. The film also includes Barry Pepper as "Lucky" Ned, the outlaw that Chaney is riding with.

The most notable thing about this film is how it showcases the humor of the Coen Brothers. There is a lot of dialogue in this movie, and at least half of it (if not more) is quite funny. The interactions between the characters, particularly between Mattie and, well... anyone else... was always delightful to watch. The first 2/3s of the movie didn't really have any action at all, but it just flew by thanks to the sharp writing and great acting.

And the acting really is fantastic. The three leads of Steinfeld, Bridges, and Damon are superb. I don't typically pay attention to awards until the final nominations are revealed for the Oscars, but I have heard that Steinfeld is only up for supporting actress, which is ludicrous. The girl was in practically every frame of the film, more than any other character. She is not only the lead actress, but the lead character. To grant her supporting actress is like a slap in the face. And she deserves that lead nomination. She was absolutely fantastic. However, despite the fantastic acting here, the acting (and partially directing) is where the film falters.

Like with the Coens' other western--No Country For Old Men--this film sinks in its third act. Once Tom Chaney and gang are introduced, everything just starts getting... strange. Now, I haven't seen the original, so I can't compare. But here, Brolin acts Chaney like he'd rather be playing Lennie in Of Mice And Men. It doesn't go (to quote Tropic Thunder) "full retard," but there's something amiss with Chaney that completely threw me off. And then you have another member of his outlaw gang that walks around making animal noises... and that's it. That's his sole purpose in the movie: animal noises. Chickens, cows, you name it. It wasn't funny... it was stupid, and I'm not exactly sure what the Coens were thinking. Then, to top it off, the film's antagonist switches to Barry Pepper's Lucky Ned, despite having only heard of the guy maybe twice in the entire film prior and never in more than an offhand comment or question (the most we hear about him is during the "cabin" sequence, and we're only hearing about him because he's riding with Chaney, their main target). But the big showdown in the film isn't even with Chaney, but between Cogburn and Lucky Ned. Granted, Pepper does a great job with the character, but it just feels strange spending the entire movie going after Chaney and then having a finale hardly focusing on the guy (which might have been for the better anyway).

Still, the third act wasn't a complete waste. Unlike No Country, there were some redeeming factors in its finale. And the overall film was definitely worth seeing. Between the writing and humor, the good cinematography, and the (mostly) great acting and directing, True Grit is a fine western. Was it my favorite western I'd seen this month? No, but it wasn't the worst, either. I say it's pretty far up there in the most enjoyable, though.


A Keanu 'Whoa'

2 comments:

  1. "True Grit" succeeds because of the interplay among its three main characters. It can stand on its own and need not worry about being lost in the shadow of the original.

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