Tuesday 15 February 2011

98: Review - True Grit

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety.  Reader discretion is advised.

True Grit 14 February 2011. Location: Cinema

Okay, first things first:
1) I find westerns very dull. *1
2) I find the Coen Brothers movies overrated and very dull. *2
3) When a film receives praise, I'm willing to give it a go. *3

And so, it was with an open mind and a smile on my face, that I took Mrs Blackout to see The Coen Brothers adaptation of True Grit on Monday. I'll be honest, I didn't like it.

The trailer looked promising, and the first act of the film where Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) hires US Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to bring her father's killer to justice, hooked me in completely. Then they set off to find him and I was left wondering what the hell happened. Considering they're meant to be "tracking" the killer, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), all they really do is ride around until they stumble upon him. There's no evidence of Cogburn (or indeed Matt Damon's ally/rival, LaBoeuf) actually doing any skilled tracking, they just ask people they come across if they've seen some bad men. I could do that.

Add to this the problems I had with the dialogue; 1) Hailee Steinfeld speaking too quickly in a prim monotone, 2) Jeff Bridges mumbling his lines through his beard in a slurry monotone, 3) Matt Damon mumbling his lines in a Texas-drawl; and I couldn't make out every other line the characters were speaking. Not that the dialogue was particularly groundbreaking, but what I made out was fine, just badly delivered.

Ultimately, I know my problem with the film lies in me, not the Coen Brothers. It's well made, beautifully shot, excellently cast (with the exception of the mumbling), nicely scored… I just didn't like it. *shrugs*
The Good: Hailee Steinfeld is superb as Mattie Ross. If this is what she's capable of now, she's got a fantastic career ahead of her. Bridges, Damon and Brolin also put in great character-turns.
The Bad: I like some dark humour in a film, but there's not quite enough in this to justify having any. The moments there are (the hanging-scene, and the funeral parlour owner in particular) work brilliantly in context, but the further we get into the film, the lack of humour makes the previous moments stand out as a promise that wasn't lived up to. I also found the ending strangely 'meh'. There's not really and send-off for the protagonists, but maybe that's how the book ends? I dunno.*4
The Ugly: Mumbling aside, the characters group up, alliances are forged, the river is crossed and the quest begins! …and then bugger all seems to happen for the next hour. Even though it is happening, I couldn't quite gauge the importance of it. It just seems messy until they find the killer. Oh, SPOLIER: they find the killer.

I'll give it a four, but that's for the craft, not the entertainment.
Look, you'll probably enjoy it. I see it as a sign that I should stick to movies rather than films.

*1 Although I think I do like the Spaghetti Western. I'm still working on that theory.
*2 Yes. Coen Bros. Dull. What of it? No, I haven't seen them all, but I don't need to try every kind of fish to know I don't like eating fish, do I? What I've seen by them (with the possible exception of No Country For Old Men) has bored the arse off me. And even NCfOM had its stretches of tedium.
*3 Look, the less said about Capote the better, okay?
*4 And let's be honest, I'm not likely to find out. If the film bored me, what chance to I stand with the book? I've never read a western novel, and I don't intend to start with this one.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.


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