True Grit

And so, this evening, to the cinema complex in Les Halles to see at last the Coen brothers’ True Grit – that is, three days before the Oscars. Before I comment on the film, I’d better be clear. I am a fan of the Coen brothers (I have recently posted admiring pieces about Fargo and The Big Lebowski) and of Jeff Bridges (my recent pieces have included The Men Who Stare at Goats and, again, The Big Lebowski). And before Hugo of New York posts a comment I should add that True Grit is great entertainment. But is it a great film? In the nature of things I read many reviews before I actually got to see this film. ‘Unfortunately’, the arguments in one of the more critical reviews stuck in my mind. The first question is why the brothers decided to reinterpret Charles Portis’s 1968 novel (rather, that is, than going for an original script) when they surely knew that comparisons would inevitably be made with the first film of the same name, starring the late, great John Wayne. The second question is to ask where the originality of this version lies. The brothers would argue that they wanted to be more faithful to the novel and, in particular, to put far more emphasis on the character of the fourteen year-old narrator, Mattie Ross (played excellently by Hailee Steinfield), but then why has all the ‘noise’ been about Jeff Bridges (who plays ‘Rooster’ Cogburn)? True Grit has also been portrayed as their homage to the Western genre, but here the critical review pointed out that the film is almost a collection of set piece scenes. Indeed, to come back to the question of originality, I suspect that this lies chiefly in the cinematography. How, for example, do you film a scene supposedly set in a dark forest at night? Or, equally, a black horse galloping across a plain on a moonless night? Roger Deakins somehow manages it and it wouldn’t surprise me if he were to pick up one of the many Oscars that this film is predicted to win.

2 Comments

  1. Hugo Kijne

    02/03/2011 at 16:36

    Since you mention my name, I feel compelled to say that I don’t think True Grit is a great film either. I saw it before I saw ‘The Fighter’ and ‘Black Swan’ and I thought that both those movies were more deserving of the Oscar (I haven’t seen ‘the King’s Speech’ yet). What bothered me in True Grit was that the dialogue, especially Bridges’ lines, was often hard to follow, and it wasn’t until I read part of the script that I realized how much I had missed in the theater. Good movie, but not the Coens’ best (hard to tell which one is though) and not Bridges’ best either (also hard to tell which one is, but you should defintely see ‘Crazy Heart’, his Oscar).

  2. Hugo Kijne

    02/03/2011 at 21:28

    PS. I like ‘Hugo of New York.’

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