Guys! Guys! I saw a movie!

This is actually bigger news than it sounds like, because I never go to the movies, at least not of my own free will. There are usually only two circumstances under which I’ll enter a movie theater. Either the movie is something that I feel invested enough (because it’s part of a franchise I follow or features an actor or director or whatever that I like — The Lord of the Rings, the new Indiana Jones movie, Inglourious Basterds) in to actually go out and see, or a bunch of other people want to go see a movie and I get dragged along.

So it was yesterday, when I allowed myself to be dragooned into going. (I had some other things I needed to do and went along for the ride.) Of course, if you’re going to see a movie, now would be the time to do it, with the Oscar bait still floating around. Much better selection than at other times of the year, when you find yourself trying to make the Sophie’s Choice of whether the latest Steve Carrell movie or the Clash of the Titans remake would be the least intolerable. My traveling companions wanted to see The King’s Speech, but I decided to watch True Grit instead. I generally like the Coen Brothers’ stuff, even if I don’t go out of my way to see it.

The movie didn’t disappoint in terms of its quality, but it was a different kind of movie than I was expecting. I’ve never seen the original film nor read the book, so I don’t know how faithful it is, but I suppose I was expecting a hard-boiled western with a lot of gunplay and adventure, but it’s really more about dialogue and character than either of those things. Absolutely the high point of the movie, at least from my perspective, is the acidic back-and-forth between the three main characters, which is frequently very amusing despite the fact that the plot is pretty bleak and humorless. It is well-written and well-acted, although Jeff Bridges’s Rooster Cogburn is prone to mumbling and slurring which can render his lines hard to understand. This fits with the character, but it disrupts understanding of the plot in a couple of places.

The movie is also quite a bit more straight-laced than I’ve come to expect from the Coen Brothers, who usually revel in their eccentricity. Their trademark darkly ironic tone pervades the movie, but they play the plot and archetypes fairly straight and respectfully rather than toying with genre conventions and audience expectations. I’m still undecided as to whether that makes it better or worse… it’s less gimmicky, for sure, but also less memorable. I’ve got a feeling that I won’t be able to really place how I feel about this movie until I’ve let it settle for a while and come back to it.

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