New Review of the Coen Brothers’ True Grit

By Peter Daniel Haworth for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC

Many readers will be interested in a highly critical review of the Coen Brothers’ remake of True Grit that has just been published in ANAMNESIS. The review is entitled, “Rooster Redux,” and it is written by Keith Hartzler. The author analyzes the movie’s consistency with the original story in Charles Portis’ famous novel, which has the same title as the movie. Hartzler argues that the Coens fail to include many interesting facets of the book–e.g, themes related to Protestant thought and culture and Southern politics in the wake of the Civil War. Hartzler is also very critical of the apparent postmodernism (and possible nihilism) that the Coens import into the story. According to Hartzler, such problematic skepticism is utterly lacking in Portis’ novel. Unlike Stanley Fish who views the film to be a major success, Hartzler implies that it is closer to a travesty.

When reading Hartzler’s review, I am struck by my conflicting reaction. Although I am sympathetic with his critique, I also enjoy and appreciate many of the Coens’ movies. In fact, I greatly enjoyed True Grit. I suspect many will have a similar dualistic response to the Coens’ film and the Hartzler’s review. The film is well done and enjoyable in many respects, but it is also postmodern and macabre as Hartzler observes. Aside from Hartzler’s beautiful prose and plush insights, his review will inform readers of the “grand canyon” chasm that exists between the movie and the original novel. The latter of which is classic (Southern) Americana.

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