I recently went to see the latest Coen Brothers film True Grit, the 2nd time a film based on the novel of the same name has been made. Western Films are a genre that had never really taken my interest, yet some of their themes and ideas are so etched in western pop culture and so often parodied in shows like The Simpsons that it almost feels like one could claim to have already seen in essence all the classic western films.
In viewing the film It does still clearly follow the conventional structure, but one of the things that makes the genre more interesting in this case is the lead character, the person that’s out for revenge is a 14 year old girl, eventually setting on his trail with the hire of Rooster Cogburn believed to be the toughest of the U.S Marshalls and Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, despite their attempts to dissuade her from joining them.
It’s a beautifully shot film well worth seeing on the big screen, something that seems to be true of many of the Coen’s films, the landscapes in the film really are beautiful and it’s a film with many subtleties of facial expressions that wouldn’t translate so well to a television screen.
The scores and songs used are also very effectively, The Coens have a long running collaboration with Carter Burwell who has almost always produced great work for them.
The performances are one of the strongest aspects of the film, Hailee Steinfeld, gives a fantastic debut performance in the role of Mattie Ross and Jeff Bridges really manages to nail the grizzled dialect for Cogburn, it’s a bit of a challenge to understand him at times but it’s done very well.
But even though the story is consistently engaging, it never quite takes light; there are some fairly superfluous elements to the story along the way, scenes and characters that probably could have been edited out without really affecting anything. The journey to finding Chaney just seems to be missing something, it feels as if something else may have been cut out, but it just doesn’t quite seem to get going.
The climax to which the film has been building to just eventually happens by chance, which though a deliberate choice just feels underwhelming, we’re also suddenly introduced to a new gang of characters late in the film, and it’s hard to have any emotional investment in characters that have been introduced so late.
One does have to be careful, of applying ideas you have about screenwriting structure, doing classes on the topic, can make you look at things in a way that could almost be too systematic and rigid but nonetheless, it does make you look for things you imagine a lecturer a would be saying to you, if it was your work.
Still in spite of some of these flaws it was a consistently enjoyable film and without wanting to spoil the film, it had an ending I found more satisfying than some of the more recent Coen films.