by Zoë Pollock
Andrew O'Hehir sums up my take on the Coen brothers' "True Grit, " which I saw last night, and puts it in perspective of their entirely impressive career:
With each new movie, [the Coen brothers] dive into a specific conception of genre and go all-out, striving to make it their own without violating its terms and conventions. If "A Serious Man" was a knotty, fatalistic Jewish fable, "Burn After Reading" was a spy farce and "No Country" was a dark-hearted, '70s-style neo-noir, then "True Grit" is a western in the John Ford style, informed by the ideology of Manifest Destiny and American Protestant conceptions of morality and justice. ...
No one can tell you whether to like or dislike a film, of course, but I think grasping what the Coens are up to, in "True Grit" or anything else they've ever made, almost always requires multiple viewings. Form is content and meaning for them, which is why they resist talking about those things in isolation. To suggest that "True Grit" is a commentary about race and the social role of women and the relationship between self-reliance and community in American history is essentially to insult the Coens' intelligence, and yours. It's a western movie, which is a shorter way of saying all that stuff.
Or you could take the Sullivan route, as a reader pointed out, and say it features some pretty amazing beards and bears.