December 4, 2013 Leave a Comment
directors Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Movie night with the kids has been a staple for many years for us and we’ve watched all kinds of movies. More recently, I’ve been interested in opening up the Western as a genre with Felix and Clara. We watched Stagecoach (1939) earlier this year, which of course is a great film and then only last week we watched She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949). But I think for a while I thought that they might enjoy the Coen brothers’ version of True Grit, which I’d seen when it came out in 2010, not so much because it’s a contemporary Western but because of the center on the 14 year old character of Mattie Ross, avenging her father’s murder.
It’s funny. At this point, the kids ask me what we’re watching, rarely asking for me to pick something in particular, though I do open up to them questions of what they feel like watching. In this case, they asked me and I told them that it was the movie about the girl whose father was murdered by a farm hand and how she hires a US Marshall to hunt him down in Indian territory. And that was that.
Interestingly, this is the first film in several weeks that Felix made it all the way through. They both liked it quite well.
What I found interesting on this viewing was the tone of the film in comparison to the John Ford Westerns that we had been watching. There is a laconic quality to this film, instilled in the pacing and the music, the longer shots of the countryside and town. It’s far more meditative overall. Perhaps that is part of the framing of the story as it’s narrated in retrospect by an older Mattie Ross.
Clara noted that she didn’t like narration, not just in this film but in general. And Felix said that he didn’t care for the film’s denouement, the ending sequence where the older Mattie appears, attempting to see Rooster Cogburn once more after years and years. I would say that is definitely how the book is written, and that the film certainly winds up taking this laid back tonality through this. I don’t know. I didn’t have a problem with it but I think I understand what the kids meant.
They were also rather shocked by the flash of gruesome violence, when the man gets his fingers cut off and stabbed and shot. Also when Matt Damon’s tongue gets bitten and Jeff Bridges jokingly offers to pull it out for him. You never saw the like in a John Ford film.
I say it still. Great movie.