Review: True Grit
Westerns are not a genre I typically gravitate to,and the only thing that compelled me to watch its Best Picture nomination.
When the Oscars came last year,I was unfamiliar to a lot of the nominees and found it ridiculous that I was left waging on the rivalry between The Hurt Locker and Avatar,likewise,and True Grit is no small contender,with 10 nominations and widespread acclaim for its 14-year star Hailee Steinfield,I eventually forced myself to watch this and was surprised by the outcome.
Based on a Charles Portis novel that was first adapted in 1969,True Grit tells of a young girl who seeks to avenge her father's death. It has all the typical elements of a Western,but they lie in the background with a quiet strength that supports the film's more notable offerings.
For one,I was surprised by how funny it was. The script runs in that antiquated way but is never deliberately verbose,and is both humorous and cutting,delivered with absolute bravado especially by Hailee Steinfield, whose facial expressions sometimes wavered into unintentional disinterest and lost energy,but she remained firm with her lines. This is not the best performance by a young woman I've seen,while its commendable that she managed to play a character of such precocious wit and determination so well,she failed to showcase a deeper nuance,she was entertaining,but not all that moving. The other problem I had was the miscast of Matt Damon,who plays one of the two bounty hunters hired to help find her father's killer. He has such a handsome face that bodes badly with how genuinely old and insipid everything else looks,I would've preferred if he physically transformed himself to look less like a major Hollywood star,this is a lousy complaint but still I found it distracting,otherwise both he and Jeff Bridges were both predictably reliable,cruising in their roles.
The story has a clear beginning and end,the minute it starts you know how things will turn up,just in the execution you have a few convoluted bits where someone falls into a pit,or there's a dramatic confrontation in the middle of a dessert unnecessarily involving tumbling horses,but without these to heighten things up there would've been much less happening,in the end though I found myself emotionally connected,rooting for the surefire winner,playing along with the stakes. I found the chemistry between Steinfield and Bridges touching,how they bicker and argue but both possess an understanding of their relationship that transcends the drama.
This was one of the Coen brother's most minimal,as I said before they stayed true to the genre and refused to amplify any part of it,in another's hands the costumes would've been greatly exaggerated,the soundtrack an overachieving orchestra,instead True Grit has put front and centre its story for what it is,take it or leave it.
Compare this to the other nominees in the Best Picture category, whether it required an amputation,a lesbian scene or couple,sure none of these things are true identifiers to their film's quality,but they needed to be there for it to be a newsworthy,Oscar qualifier,whereas True Grit is fueled by the raw,unboastful talent of its directors and cast.
The Coen brothers have previously adapted two works,Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men and The Ladykillers. In the span of their 18-year career,they've garnered 33 Oscar nominations.
On adapting True Grit from its print origins, they said "It's a very funny book," explains Coen. "It's told in the voice of this 14-year-old character who's prematurely sure of herself and sure of everything. It's got three great main characters, and each funny in their own way. It's a simple revenge story and it seemed like promising material.".This best encapsulates the entire film,and proves how well the two have executed the vision they had for it. Its a simple story,with a terrific sense of humor.