“You must pay for everything in this world, one way or another.”
Is it possible that all of the enticing components that came together for the re-make of True Grit, well, were too good to be true? One-time Oscar-nominated director Henry Hathaway of the original classic being superseded by the ten-time Oscar nominated Coen Brothers; Jeff Bridges, fresh off his Best Actor Oscar as a rough-strewn alcoholic western singer, plays a rough-strewn alcoholic western marshall, famously played by John Wayne, which earned him his only Oscar. Roger Deakins helmed the camera, with three Oscar nom’s in the past three years, while supporting cast Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and Barry Pepper fill the epic shoes of Glen Campbell, Robert Duvall, and Dennis Hopper. What can we make out when the dust of the Old West settles and the end credits roll? A well-made, throw-back Western movie.
We admire the Coen Brother’s purist devotion to quirky language and dialect, painstaking details in the rotting teeth and grimy features, and extremely realistic art direction, making us believe that the characters really are in the Wild West instead of a Hollywood backlot, a ghost town movie set, or Spanish-Italian stand-ins. We revel in Bridges’ reimagining of Rooster Cogburn as a ruthless, grungy old cockerel — in other words, he is Rooster Cogburn — whereas John Wayne could not de-feather his own iconic image from the character (not to take anything away from The Duke, R.I.P).
However, where is the eccentricity that we have come to expect from the Coen Brothers? Where is the witty irony — certainly there were several moments in the film that lent themselves towards classic Coen Brothers comedic absurdity. Their version of True Grit is not revisionist, nor is it particularly creative — it is simply a well-told, well-produced classic western — yet for once the Coen Brothers have taken the ink out of their stamp of incongruity — and we miss it.
By Lee Hammond