Usually I count the days in anticipation for the release of the latest Coen Bros’ film but since their first remake, Ladykillers, didn’t kill, this time around I was a bit dubious after seeing True Grit‘s too revealing trailer and cliche “wanted” font poster. But as it began I was immediately drawn in by the precocious 14yr old girl, Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) and her no nonsense determination to catch her Father’s killer to see him hang. But I felt like hanging myself when seeing how the Coen’s staged the typical western town without a speck of grime anywhere, (almost rivaling the Boardwalk Empire set) and DP Deakin’s clean, streaming pools of light.
(Fort Smith, Ark 1878)
The only redeeming aspect of the town scenes was Mattie’s bargaining with town businessman (the scene also read for their open auditions) and her witnessing a brutal yet comical hanging of three men – though local P.C. film critic, J. Hoberman, begs to differ.
“The Coens are still themselves. As one colleague remarked—unprompted—upon leaving the screening where True Grit was previewed for New York critics, “They always do something to make you hate them.” (In my case, the moment happened early on with a gag based on the hanging of a—dare one say—Native American.)”
Hey J, most of John Wayne’s movies portray Indians like shit and far worse, that’s one of the reasons why I’m not a fan of The Searchers. Though he does redeem himself in his review by citing the influence of Night Of The Hunter and it’s fable qualities he’s still more of a pompous douche than I am, I mean just look at his top ten list! From the likes of Alice in Wonderland to Little Red Riding these fables and fairy tales capture the innocence and fears of a young girl’s coming of age and so does Coen Bros. treatment and approach to their western. The Coen’s foray into this genre is not exactly groundbreaking (unlike No Country for Old Men) but they do infuse it with their usual eccentric brand of humor while being faithful more to the novel than Wayne’s version.
The casts’ delivery of dialogue are perfectly paced, Bridges as a drunk washed up sheriff, with insight from The Dude’s, and Matt Damon an overly confident Texas Ranger, like Space Ranger, Buzz Lightyear. The only fault in the film’s casting is the 40 year old Mattie Ross, who appears to look like a 60 year old Agnes Moorehead rather than the young Hailee. I know the western frontier and a snake bite will age you but talk about a country bumpkin!
But this tiny blemish is nothing compared to the sappy soundtrack. Nevertheless the Coens continue their prolific output and again leave me wanting more.