True Grit (2011)
February 16, 2011 3 Comments
Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfield) is a blunt little girl who, at the not-so-tender age of 14, witnesses her father’s murder at the hands of Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). Robbed of her parent and two of his ‘gold pieces’, Ross decides to seek vengeance on her father’s killer by hiring the merciless Rooster Cogburn’s (Jeff Bridges) gun over Texas Ranger LaBoeuf’s (Matt Damon) lawful badge. Pacts and disagreement’s follow, as a series of contrived clues keep our heroes firmly on Chaney’s tail.
I saw True Grit three days ago now and I’m only just getting around to recording my thoughts now, though, for the little I actually have to say, I could have happily waited much longer. A generic remake of a stereotypic John Wayne western, True Grit is being hailed with such enthusiasm that it is even up for several Oscars, including Best Film. Although it was undeniably serviceable, and the direction and performances perfectly adequate, there was little to set True Grit apart from the hundreds of other movies released this past year; it simply does not belong in the same breath as The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, Toy Story 3, Black Swan or…well, maybe The Fighter.
Where I appear to differ from the accepted consensus is in my refusal to chalk a film down as exceptionally cool simply because it was directed by the Coen brothers and starred Jeff Bridges. While I will save my issues with the directorial siblings for my next encounter with No Country For Old Men, my problem with Jeff Bridges has been simmering for some time now. Awarded the Best Actor accolade last year for Crazy Heart, Bridges all but robbed George Clooney (Up In The Air) and Colin Firth (A Single Man) of the Oscar for a distinctly unremarkable performance that in no way summed up his alright career.
Then there was Tron: Legacy, a truly uninspired assault on my precious awake-time which continued a tendency of filmmakers which goes like this: if I cast Jeff Bridges in my movie it will be intrinsically cool and I will no longer have to try. As a result, Tron: Legacy positively hanged itself on its laurels, as boredom set in and even precious Jeff Bridges drawl couldn’t save the day.
True Grit shoulders this moral and runs with it. As Jeff Bridges sits astride his horse, all eye patchy and sporting an incomprehensible cowboy accent, you can virtually hear the Coens applauding themselves on their casting prowess. Hailee Steinfield’s performance smacks of Daniel Radcliffe in mid-franchise Potter, while Matt Damon makes the most of a novelty swollen tongue, leaving Bridges with most of the bona-fide acting, a challenge to which he doesn’t so much rise as mounts drunkenly in the most Jeff Bridges way possible. Not so easily pleased, I sat in wait of goods that inevitably went undelivered – his lead character too gruff and charicatured to hold my attention.
After all the mumbling and the faux brusqueness, True Grit serves the final insult by doing what can only be described as “a Buried“. Said offence involves the needless inclusion of a bolt-on reptile which serves no purpose but to pad a lack of plot and break the organic flow of the narrative. Another intrusive snake later, and True Grit is suddenly racing a hobbit to Rivendell in search of a healer. The plot point is so unnecessary, so jarring, that it perfectly illustrates the sole argument for remakes, reimagining and reboots, to edit out the rubbish bits and expertly ignores it, instead opting to retread the original’s disengaging lack of plot.
True Grit was OK, it was mildly entertaining and boasted some nice props and costumes. It was not in any way remarkable, however, and is almost as one dimensional as Rooster Cogburn’s optic array.