film review: True Grit (2010)14 Comments
This is the first year that I’ve ever seen all the Best Picture nominees before the Oscar ceremony and it’s only occured to me now that I probably should have done reviews for all of them BEFORE they were awarded. I’m really not great at putting 2 and 2 together.
Anyway, this means that I have like 8 reviews to write before you all forget that there was an awards season at all… so I’d better get to it. Oh, in case you’re wondering, I had previously written reviews for The Social Network (which I liked) and The Kids are All Right (which I did not).
I should say from the outset, I’m not a big fan of westerns. So basically I’m kind of going against my reviewing ethos in doing a review of this one. If you are a fan you should probably look away now. Not because I’m going to slate True Grit, just because well… I don’t know what I’m talking about really. Or more accurately, I have no context for the review. I think the only westerns I’ve seen are The Searchers and High Plains Drifter. Sooo… the critique you’ll be getting from me today is fairly unversed.
Here we go… I enjoyed True Grit, it was fun, it was smart, it looked great, it was mostly engaging. But to be honest, I had a bit of a problem with it in the sense that I’m probably not going to think about it again. Except when looking back at Coen brothers films… and I’m fairly ambivalent on Coen brothers films really. I (mostly) liked No Country for Old Men and I thought A Serious Man really deserved more viewers than it got, but the only film of theirs that I’ve really liked a lot was O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and that had a lot to do with the music. What a soundtrack.
It annoys me sometimes, that this is what it’s like. In that this is what I’m like. There are a lot of movies out there like True Grit… That is, there are a lot of movies that are great stories – stories that are told safely and competently by good directors – that I just can’t get into. I like them, I think they’re pretty good films. But they just never blow me away, I just can’t make myself care about them. I want more damnit.
Ok, I think the problem for me was that I never connected with the characters. Hailee Steinfeld’s* character for example. Yeah, you know, she’s a plucky precocious kid. She knows stuff, her dealings with adults are entertaining, but… so what? I don’t actually know anything about her. I can guess what her full formed persona is like but, perhaps you can show me more of who she is? I don’t mean necessarily some montage of her formative years showing her becoming who she is but… I don’t know. All I got through this whole quest that herself and Jeff Bridges went on was that she’s determined. That’s nice. But… surely there was something else there?
And obviously, I couldn’t help but compare the characters creation to Jennifer Lawrence’s character in Winter’s Bone. In my opinion Winter’s Bone was far more successful at creating the characters and atmosphere with a (somewhat) similar premise. I knew who that girl was, through the environment around her, through the way she was to her family, through the look on her face – she was real. Mattie Ross was a sketch compared to Lawrence’s Ree.
I would almost go as far as to say that True Grit was on the one hand too light while on the other not light enough. For me, there were flashes of greatness… but they were only flashes. I do remember near the end there was a line that really struck me (by the other female character in the film) and I wish I could remember it but it was the only time I felt a touch of heart in the proceedings.
Perhaps I’m being harsh. It was still a good film. Even if I thought Jeff Bridges played the only real character in it. It was funny, it kept me entertained, it was a really good script – I’ll give it that. I just thought it lacked… ah will I say it? Ah yeah, go on… I’m not sure it had true grit.
* who, by the way, looked adorable at the Oscars, one of the best dresses