Friday, December 17, 2010

Review: True Grit (2010)

Having just sauntered out of Joel Coen and Ethan Coen's True Grit, I can say that it's certainly a traditionalist western in many ways - elegant, wide-angled, reverent - yet the result is confoundingly disappointing, essentially a series of saucy, slick verbal volleys set against the breathtaking New Mexico landscapes (substituting for the river valleys of Arkansas).
There are flashes of brilliance in the zingy, period dialogue and in the exquisitely rendered lensing by Roger Deakins, but while the film bears the humor, craft and language of your typical Coen Brothers outing, that's all it is. The Coens make their actors snarl, spit and swig but the rest they leave to Charles Portis.
Jeff Bridges' Rooster Cogburn is a carefree drunkard with a quick trigger and Bridges plays him with an exaggerated growl, a weary limp and a comedic stare. All things considered, he holds up pretty well to the iconic role, if not quite matching the Duke than giving us something worthy of his imitation. 
Matt Damon, as the well-dressed and haughty Texas Ranger La Boeuf, is pretty much a hoot while Hailee Steinfeld, as the wise-beyond-her-years Mattie Ross gives, if not the best performance of the three, certainly the most surprising. (Although I'll be damned if Barry Pepper, as the jagged-toothed Ned Pepper doesn't threaten to walk away with it in his brief moments.)
It's just a shame to see the Coen Brothers abandon their tenacity and hard-edged cynicism in favor of folksy charm. With True Grit, they've made an accessible, spunky little western-comedy that's as beautifully composed and formally presentable as they come - it's also about as empty as those glass whiskey bottles that a scruffy Rooster Cogburn so casually discards. [C+]

1 comment:

  1. True Grit carries on gallantly for much if its ride, but when the sun sets in the west, it's still missing something.