I’m not much of a western fan, I’ve never seen many John Wayne films, but I love a good hero story.  I love those shots where the hero stands tall after a moment of adversity and the music swells and I want to get out of my seat and cheer.  By this point in most hero stories I’m fist pounding the air and breathing heavily waiting for the hero to over come the odds.  In True Grit, an adaptation of a novel (of which I’ve never read) by the time these “hero” moments take place; I could care less about what has happened over the course of the movie.

The first thing that struck me in this film was the use of comedy.  Some movies, when seen over opening weekend with the general public, unsettling dramatic moments can be misinterpreted as comedy.  A prime example of this is the opening shot of 28 Days, when the main character awakes naked from a hospital bed and saunters out to a desolate city street.  The crowd, when I saw it opening night, was hysterical with laughter, giggling relentlessly at the actors .. non porn worthy genitalia.  This moment should have been reflecting how newly born into this horrific new world the character was and how unprotected, isolated and alone he would be throughout the film.   When the audience first laughed aloud during ‘True Grit’, when an american Indian’s final words are interrupted by a burlap sack before being hanged, I wondered if the crowd wasn’t getting it; already.  Was this showing the racism of the day, the view of ethnicity of the times?  That’s what I assumed, being that this was a movie about a young girl who’s father was murdered and who was out for revenge.  Not a funny premise.  But it sure was a funny movie.  That quick, quirky humor that only the Cohen bros can foster in dramatic times, but for me, this time around; it just didn’t fit.

For me films need a thesis; a focal point that the whole movie culminates in.  A point, or points to reflect on after the film is done.  Sometimes it’s a moral, others it’s the arc of a character or characters, still other times it is how you can reflect on your own life compared to the film you have just watched.  I didn’t see any of that in this movie.  There was no arc, you didn’t necessarily dislike any character in the beginning and then love them at the end.  Nor did you think you loved a character in the beginning and realized you hated them in the end.  To me, the characterizations were just as inconsistent as the drama/comedy of the story itself.  This film contained little to no drama, no fear for what was about to happen next.  Every time something dramatic was about to happen, humor was infused so much to dilute any fear for the main characters.

The script itself didn’t help the cause either.  I don’t know if stilted is the right word but it feels right for the moment.  Every line spoken was as if an uneducated man was trying to speak in the tongue of a wig wearing Englishmen.  It was almost Shakespearean in it’s delivery.  Not to say it was hard to follow, you understood what was being said, even through a dirty drawl concocted by the dude himself, Jeff Bridges.  Rooster sounded like he was the original Tom Waits while Matt Damon made Texans sound dumb (that was the point however).  Hailey who plays the darling precocious young lass who is willing to kill a man does a decent job with what she is given.  However I’m confused, as I am with this whole film, is she really beyond her years or hiding innocence, the whole character is very unsubstantiated and inconsistent and I feel it’s the script and story not her performance.

While I’m not really a fan of this film, I’m hesitant to say that it was a ‘bad’ movie.  The Cohen brothers know what they are doing, it just may be that I didn’t care for what they did, no matter how ‘right’ they may have done it.  True Grit’s real shine was in the cinematography, beyond that this is a movie that I will forget about very soon.  It truly had, for me, no grit.  The final showdown(s) didn’t have me excited.  Who were the bad guys?  Why weren’t we supposed to like them?  Did I miss something, when new bad guys were introduced at the very end of the film?  I’d rather sit and watch Once Upon A Time in the West, a film that no matter how many times I watch it; at the end of almost three hours I’m crying, cheering, shouting only wishing that more films were like it.

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