TRUE GRIT (2010)
written for the screen and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
[filmography: A Serious Man (2009), Burn After Reading (2008), No Country for Old Men (2007), The Ladykillers (2004), The Man Who Wasn't There (2001), O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), The Big Lebowski (1998), Fargo (1996), The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), Barton Fink (1991), Miller's Crossing (1990), Raising Arizona (1987), Blood Simple. (1984)]
starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, and Hailee Steinfeld
ENJOYMENT: ***1/2 (out of 5)
"Liked it a lot"
First of all, with all due respect, I really love the Coen Brothers. They have turned out consistently good movies for the last 26 years, and have more great films than any other "great" filmmakers I'm aware of. My favorite of theirs of course is Fargo, then The Big Lebowski, and then Miller's Crossing. But I am a huge fan of their new stuff as well, like No Country and Burn After Reading. I didn't love A Serious Man. In fact, I thought that if the Coen Brothers didn't make it, and I didn't respect them so much, I'd say it blew. Though I know tons of people that loved it, and hence this illustrates the main problem of reviewing anything in the first place--everyone has their own opinion. I don't ever want to deter anyone from seeing a film they're interested in; that is not my purpose of reviewing the films I see. And with True Grit, my stance is no different. Despite feeling like this was only a slightly above average film, I know that others will love it. In fact, some may say it's the Coen's best since Fargo, or the best western made in 20 years (since Unforgiven). I challenge all to form their own opinions. But I must humbly say that I merely "Liked it," and here's why.
True Grit was originally a book written by Charles Portis, that was later adapted for the screen in 1969 and headed by the wonderful John Wayne. John Wayne won his only Oscar for Best Actor in Leading Role that award season at the age of 62, after over 40 years of making films. Unfortunately, I am not well-versed in John Wayne and his films, but when watching his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn I knew I was watching something spectacular. Same goes with Jeff Bridges. Bridges has an equally impressive career, having also been making film for 40 years at this point, and currently 61 years of age. Perhaps no other actor could match John Wayne in experience and austerity. And He delivers, oh so well. Bridges will most likely receive an Oscar nomination this year, but not a win, because the Coens didn't give him the movie his character deserved. This True Grit attempts to stray from the original film in some areas, so as not to be confused with a shot-by-shot remake, but misses the mark when developing my interest and compassion for lil' Mattie Ross, the film's other key character. True Grit picks up steam after about 30 minutes, however, and delivers signature Coen Brother action and magnificent shots that make the whole experience definitely worthwhile.
All in all, this movie is really good, and the performances should not be missed. Jeff Bridges and the way he totes that gun around and rides through the old West is brilliantly realized. Also, 14 year-old Hailee Steinfeld, who plays Mattie Ross, the girl who initiates the adventure through the old territory, is mighty impressive in her first feature film. She shines and commands the screen in the first 30 minutes--enough to carry us through the somewhat confused intro. She holds her own with the great Bridges, as well as with Matt Damon and Josh Brolin, who are both extremely good as well. My second favorite thing about this movie, aside from its performances, is the action scenes. The Coens deliver on their unspoken promise to consistently wow their audience with gun shots, blood, and memorable scores, all with minimal camera cuts to add to the uniqueness of their style. Aside from this though, I felt the film was a little loose and may have been able to use some more transitions and tighter edits; however, True Grit is still a worthwhile experience and a worthy addition to the Coen's filmography.
AWARD PREDICTIONS: The movie will be nominated for Best Picture (since there are now 10 spots open in that category), Best Actor Jeff Bridges, Best Supporting Actress Hailee Steinfeld (though it's really a leading role), and maybe Best Director or Best Adapted Screenplay (because the Coens can shoot a feature length toothpaste commercial and still manage garner a nomination in one of these categories).