True Grit

True Grit

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Westerns are kind of like musicals.

Wait: hear me out!

I don’t mean that the movies themselves are similar. I don’t mean that John Wayne is the same as Fred Astaire. I don’t think it is a good idea for Clint Eastwood and Cher to perform a big song and dance number on the open plains.

What I mean is: westerns and musicals are both niche genres. Most people could completely live without them, and that’s why they make very few of them.

But there is a cadre of rabid fans of each genre who are eager to embrace a new musical or western and rush to the theater in droves whenever a new one comes out.

I figure that’s why a perfectly mediocre musical like “Dreamgirls” became an overrated sensation. And why an absolutely unremarkable western like “3:10 to Yuma” was a critical and commercial hit.

And on the rare occasion that they make a musical or western that is genuinely good, the world stops to worship it.

“Chicago” was actually decent, so naturally it swept the 2002 Oscars. “Unforgiven” is the only brilliant western that I’ve ever seen. So it is only natural that cable TV plays it ad nauseam, giving guys like me an opportunity to enjoy it for the twentieth time.

Personally, I do not like musicals. It would take an army of drag queens to drag me to see “Burlesque.”

I do like westerns, though, for some reason. So it was inevitable that I was going to see “True Grit.”

Though I gladly pay my $8 every time a new western comes out, I do not mistake them for great films.

“True Grit” is a perfectly respectable, reasonably entertaining western. It isn’t anything special, though, and it doesn’t deserve to be in the Oscar race.

“True Grit” tells the ultra-violent story of Mattie Ross: a smart, plucky young woman who is on a mission to avenge her father’s murder.

Mattie intrepidly follows a drunken lawman (Jeff Bridges) and a shady Texas Ranger (Matt Damon) on a mission into the wilderness to track down and kill the man responsible.

I didn’t like “True Grit” as much as I was hoping to. Mostly because I didn’t like Jeff Bridges’s Rooster Cochran as much as I was expecting to.

I think Jeff Bridges is a terrific actor. I was happy when he won Best Actor last year for the wonderful little film “Crazy Heart.”

Rooster Cochran is very similar to Bad Blake – the character Bridges played in “Crazy Heart.” Only he’s not as interesting. Rooster exhibits all of the drunkenness and undependability of Bad Blake, but none of the complexity and pathos.

Overall, “True Grit” is perfectly watchable but nothing special. Fans of westerns will enjoy it but I don’t recommend it to anyone else.

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