Got that whole cowboy thing goin’

Made it out to an afternoon showing of True Grit on opening day!

But first, some thoughts inspired by the Trailer Hell before the movie. (To think I once enjoyed movie trailers!)

  1. What is the point of Jason Statham?
  2. Why can’t Hugh Jackman ever make a decent movie?  His agent needs to be shot.
  3. Robert Pattinson, proving again that “Inbred is the new black.
  4. Gywneth Paltrow sucking up to middle-America.  Apocalypse must be nigh.
  5. Fuck you, Michael Bay.  FUCK YOU.

And now for our feature presentation…

Let me preface by saying I have never read the book nor seen the original, so I will be making no comparisons.

Should I begin on a good note or a bad note?  “Bad” is not an apt word; there’s nothing “bad” about the Coen Brothers’ True Grit.  It’s simply not the jaw-dropping slice of badassery and vengeance that the trailer (they used Johnny CASH in the trailer!) and the promotional stuff (“Punishment Comes This Christmas.”) lead me to believe.  To compare Coens to Coens:  I was expecting No Country for Old Men.  Instead I got O Brother Where Art Thou?

What we have is a talky (very talky) meander through the Old West with some colorful characters punctuated by one or two tense action set pieces that feel out of place given the lackadaisical pace of the rest of the film.

You should see True Grit just for the performances.  This is the first and ONLY movie in twelve years that made me forget that Jeff Bridges is The Dude.  His Rooster Cogburn is a garrulous, but lonely, nearly broken old man…which of course Bridges nails…but he truly excels at in the few scenes where he’s called upon to show us the gunfighter that hasn’t quite gone to seed.  He does it wordlessly, Cogburn’s one good eye morphing from amiable to steely like an American Odin.

Speaking of gods, the Coens need to thank whatever deity led them to Hailee Steinfeld, who plays Mattie Ross.  She takes a role that is borderline unbelievable, and that in most young actors’ hands would veer straight into “fucking annoying” territory, and saves it.  Mattie is ridiculously smart, preternaturally composed, and bizarrely well-spoken, but she gives us enough moments where we see that she is still an excited 14 year-old girl on an adventure to keep the character human.

And Matt Damon.  Damn Matt Damon, why does he keep doing things that make me want to like him?!  He’s perfect, and completely melts into his role.  (Though like all Damon roles in the past 3 years, I always wonder “What if Heath Ledger had gotten this part?”  Then I just get depressed.)

My only quibbles with the cast are :  1. Not enough Josh Brolin.  2. What, no Buscemi?!  They couldn’t have found him a cameo? Damn.

But these excellent performances are hung on a unevenly-paced, threadbare plot.  The characters are simply not given enough to do; and while they are given big mouthfuls of words to say, none of them has any sense of depth, or weight.  With a cast like this, I should have cared deeply for the characters, but I didn’t.  It’s a shallow story, and Coens haven’t made any effort to infuse it with their usual layers or nuances and the result is a total lack of emotional resonance.  A damn shame, as the potential was there…and I had such hopes that True Grit would save the year in movies.

As The Dude would say, “That’s a bummer, man.”

(p.s. I highly recommend the Pajiba review.)

One Response to “Got that whole cowboy thing goin’”

  1. ReeRee Says:

    … thanks for the review ! Ha, just as I write this the commercial is on !

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