The Coen Brothers are some of the most direct filmmakers in Hollywood today. “In Hollywood” is even an interesting appellation since they are technically still independent filmmakers. Most of their films have been distributed by major studios, but almost none have been made under their supervision. Of all their films, two of the finest are No Country for Old Menand True Grit.
The latter was just released this past Christmas and has been playing to a wide audience in packed theaters ever since. The idea of a western is an interesting branching out for the Coens, after such modern-era comedy classics as Fargo and The Big Lebowski. Previously, their work with period pieces is fairly confined to either Miller’s Crossingor Barton Fink, though The Hudsucker Proxytechnically also takes place in the 1950s.
True Gritis a beautiful film, but it doesn’t have quite the same flavor as a normal Coen Brothers film. Its based on a Charles Portis novel, the same one that gave inspiration to the 1969 John Wayne starring film, and it shows for its lack of Coen-styled story progression, but it more than makes up for it with the expert camera work on Roger Deakins and the performances of Matt Damon and Jeff Bridges.
If you had to choose one of these two films to best represent the Coen Brothers as filmmakers, No Countrystill takes the cake, but if you’re looking for a really great film, True Grit is superior in nearly every day. It shows the brothers maturing as filmmakers and attempting a new level of storytelling, be it an adaptation or not, that could finally propel them into the mainstream.