I picked up True Grit from the local library DVD shelf yesterday. After a promising start (the cinematography is excellent) I realized that this otherwise great film is undermined by a silly dialogue. One reviewer called it “amusingly idiosyncratic” but I just found it stupid.
About half of the time all of the English language contractions that we normally use are absent. So instead of saying, for instance, “I don’t know if I want to ride with him” a character would say something like “I do not know if I would like to ride with that man.”
But after speaking fully and formally, in the very next line a character will use contractions just like we do today. And the dialogue goes back and forth from painfully formal to casually informal throughout the whole film.
Obviously done on purpose, this device, however, isn’t consistent, which for me detracted from the film.
Maybe the Coen brothers, or whoever was behind it, thought they were achieving a delicate or possibly humorous balance between the two narrative styles. But it just distanced me, making the film seem contrived and “a movie” instead of something immediate and compelling. And I think most people would agree. Nominated for several Academy Awards, True Grit received none. In other words… nice try but no cigar.
Having said that, the acting is, on the whole, good. Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon are already two of my favorites. And the newcomer Hailee Steinfeld is nothing short of amazing. But again, the stilted and uneven dialogue takes away from their performances.
Bottom line: This film is worth watching. At times I felt like it was a glorified and gory Little House on the Prairie (because it’s mostly from the perspective of a smart young woman). But I’m glad it was a library flick. I might have been disappointed had I paid more than a buck or two for it.
Related web pages
- True Grit (2010) (mrmovietimes.com)
- 2011 Critics’ Choice Awards: Hailee Steinfeld (fabsugar.com)
- True Grit’s Hailee, Josh, and Jeff Make a Pre-Oscars Stop in Berlin (popsugar.com)
- 2011 OscarTM Nominees: the scores and the bores (mrmovietimes.com)
- 125th Post Battle Royale: True Grit 1969 vs. 2010 (mhmoviereviews.com)
- True Grit: The Inversion of a Coen Brothers Movie (gocomics.typepad.com)
- Young Hollywood Awards: Hailee Steinfeld, Miranda Cosgrove (celebs.gather.com)
- Spielberg Top Movies (ajbelljournalism.com)