True Grit (2010) was always going to get good reviews with such prestige at both ends of the camera, although despite the timing it doesn’t seem like a film with any major awards ambition. Unlike the strategically kooky Oscar-seeking missile deployed recently by Aronovsky and Hershlag, this is a work of genuine creative vision which deserves its hype. What’s interesting is that even the positive reviews are chiefly united by a sense of surprise, even confusion, that the Coen brothers’ latest follows the Western’s tracks so closely. It has been called “the first straight genre exercise in their career”, “probably the least ironic picture in the Coen Brothers’ worthy canon”, and even “just a couple bloody gunfights removed from an old-fashioned Disney yarn”. Ethan Coen himself has claimed that it was partly conceived and could be viewed as a Christmas movie (hopefully TV schedulers will take him at his word come December).
If the definition of “A Coen Brothers’ movie” is that it be relentlessly sardonic, and dementedly hostile towards genre convention, the consensus seems to be that this is the least “Coen Brothers” the Coen brothers have ever been. Despite the praise there seems to be a sense in some quarters that, in making a film people can easily understand, the filmmakers have failed to fulfil their duty to be as difficult and inscrutable as possible. The St. Petersburg Times‘ reviewer sums up this sense of betrayal, pointedly judging that “True Grit is a very good movie that might be more embraceable if we didn’t know who was pulling the trigger”. Continue reading