Archive for the ‘Barry Pepper’ Category

MOVIE: True Grit (2010)

January 5, 2011

I was raised on Westerns (especially spaghetti Westerns starring Clint Eastwood —  thanks, Dad!) and I’m a fairly big fan of the genre overall.  For a girl, anyway.  I’ve seen gazillions of Westerns, both new and old, and therefore, I’ve seen a lot of great Westerns, a lot of good Westerns, a lot of mediocre Westerns, and a lot of really, really bad Westerns.

Now, don’t hate me, but I’ve seen the original True Grit a couple of times, both as a kid and as an adult, and I would put it smack-dab in the middle of the “mediocre” category.  I liked Rooster Cogburn a lot better, but I’ve never been much of a fan of The Duke.

That said, the story for True Grit — about a little girl who hires a drunken, over-the-hill U.S. Marshall to help her track down and exact vengeance upon the killer of her father — is a great one.  A classic Western tale.  All it needs is the right writers and the right cast and it could be absolutely mind-blowing.  And so, when I heard the Coen brothers were taking it on, I was beyond excited; I was thrilled.  At least, I was thrilled until the reviews started to come out last December, almost all of which said pretty much the same thing:  meh, s’awright.

What??  Only all right?  How could this not be great?  The trailer looked great (man, did it ever, especially the early one, which I can’t seem to find online, alas).  The actors are all great.  The Coen brothers are certainly great.  And the story is great.  How do you make a “meh, s’awright” movie out of this combination?

Well, my friends, you do it like this:  You turn off everything that makes you a unique, interesting filmmaker, and you just go straight old-fashioned genre.

The Coen brothers’ True Grit is a fine film.  The acting is strong, the story is entertaining, and the script is sharp and clever (although, if you ask me, slightly too sharp and too clever in a few places to be believable — I especially had this problem with the Mattie Ross character, who, even as a precocious little girl, doesn’t talk like a precocious little girl, but instead like an adult telling the story of a precocious little girl (which is why she talks like that in the novel, narrated by Mattie as an adult, if I remember correctly.  But she maybe shouldn’t have talked quite so much like that in the film.)).  I laughed out loud more than once, and was completely engrossed in the story throughout the entire picture.  Additionally, I thought both Matt Damon and the ridiculously-underrated Barry Pepper did excellent jobs with their parts.  (Jeff Bridges, on the other hand, I wasn’t nearly as impressed by — in large part because he sounded just like Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade to me, complete with guttural gruntings, and I couldn’t stop waiting for him to interject suddenly something about “French fried pataters.”  Distracting.)

The problem is, despite fine acting and a fine script, there’s nothing about this movie that really stands out:  there wasn’t a visual that struck me, there wasn’t a line delivered in a way that stuck with me, there wasn’t a character who will remain with me for any significant amount of time.

This movie did not move me, I think is what I’m saying — it merely entertained me.  It is a fine film — and that’s it.

Which is okay, of course.  There’s nothing wrong with a good, entertaining movie — in fact, there are many things right about good, entertaining movies.  It’s just that after seeing the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men, which is, in many ways, also a Western, I was expecting something a lot more interesting.   I think many Western lovers felt the same way — and I can tell many film critics did.

Fans of the genre will find much to enjoy here, I think, and so, frankly, will non-fans (my husband liked it a lot more than I did, for example, and he’s not all that into Westerns).  It IS undeniably well-written, well-acted, and well-made.  It’s just that it’s a little too much “well” and not enough “wow.”

Now, off to watch A Fistful of Dollars for the 87-bazillionth time.  Dad, wish you were here.

[Prequeue at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre: Western
Cast:  Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper