Jan. 1st, 2012

sarcasticwriter: (Black Stallion)
I just rewatched the Cohen Brothers remake of True Grit on Netflix instant stream and was pissed off anew by the way the movie was perfect up until two details that occur right at the end of the film.

A movie that's bad from the start and all the way through doesn't bother me much - that movie never had a chance to be good. But a movie that's great, aside from an unconscionable, easily fixed mistake drive me crazy. These were mistakes in True Grit that could have been taken care of with a couple of edits, or, if strictly necessary, a small out-sourced bit of corrective CGI.

Spoilers, naturally.

So Rooster has his four-on-one shootout. In the shootout, Rooster's horse and two of the villains' horses are shot dead. This leaves two remaining live horses from the firefight, Mattie's Blackie makes three. It's never explained where LaBoeuf's horse is - but since he made a surprise reappearance to save Mattie, LaBoeuf's horse should be somewhere nearby.

Mattie falls into a pit filled with rattlesnakes, one of which bites her (even though rattlesnakes are usually shy and won't go out of their way to attack creatures much larger than they are). That's fine. Unrealistic, maybe, in its staging, but that's one of those things you can overlook for the sake of the story. Rooster needs to get her to a doctor to save her life, so he gets up behind her on Blackie - her pony - and drives Blackie mercilessly back to civilization throughout the night. After running the horse for hours (which isn't, by the way, something that horses do), the horse collapses in exhaustion and Rooster puts him down, then has to carry Mattie on, himself. She is lucky to lose her arm - she almost dies.

Except, before they go on this heroic dash to save her life, there's a point-of-view shot from Blackie's back where they run past this:



Hey, it's a fully-saddled and provisioned horse standing quietly beside its dead rider! By tying Mattie into Blackie's saddle and distributing the weight load between two horses (one of which, it must be emphasized, is a pony), both horses can travel faster and farther. Or, if that's too dangerous, ride together on one horse, leading the other by the rein, then switch when the first gets tired. Either way, this well-domesticated, well-trained and freshly-rested mount is a godsend!

Except, three seconds later:



So...you're just going to leave the other horse? You're going to run within 15 feet of it, while it quietly watches you go by? You're just going to leave it there? THERE?!

What kills me is that this isn't even natural horse behavior. A professional trainer had to spend countless hours training that horse to stand quietly, without moving away to graze or to follow Blackie (since horses are herd animals, when one runs it often sets off the others). The film crew paid the trainer to make sure the horse stood still beside the "dead" bodies as the dolly rig passed by. They deliberately set up and paid extra for a shot that makes absolutely no sense.

Why not just...leave the horse out of the shot? Don't even present the bigger, stronger, freshly-rested mount as an option. Just leave it to the audience to assume that the villain's horses scattered, and leave it at that. Don't dangle a better option in front of the audience, as if the audience is too dumb to realize it is an option. And for godsake, don't spend extra time and money to fuck up the climax of your movie.

All right, well...so that's a big fuck up. The movie jumps forward 25 years, as a 40 year old Mattie journeys to see Rooster for the first time since the snakebite. She arrives at the Wild West show he was performing in, only to be told that he'd died of a heart attack three days earlier. That's sad. She goes on to say in voiceover that she wonder's what's become of LaBoeuf, if he's even still alive, because, "...I judge he would be in his 70s now, and nearer 80 than 70."

Jeff Bridges, the actor, is 21 years older than Matt Damon, the actor. I don't think Bridges is playing Rooster much younger than his 60 years when he made this movie; he's older, if he's anything. And Matt Damon, isn't playing older than his 40 years. If anything, he looks pretty great for 40.

So these guys are supposed to be 20 years apart in age, right? I mean, look at a picture of them:



But actually, when we see Rooster's tombstone at the end of the film, the birth/death dates are 1825-1903, meaning Rooster died at the age of 78 and was 53 during the majority of the movie. So if Mattie thinks LaBoeuf is "closer to 80 than 70," as Rooster was, then...what the fuck, Rooster and LaBoeuf were supposed to be the same age? Matt Damon is supposed to be 50 in this movie? Bullshit.

At this point, my coworker, upon hearing my complaint as I was putting away my computer, said, "It's just a movie, Christina, you shouldn't think that much about it." And she's right. I shouldn't think that much about it. But the Cohen brothers, producers, editor, sound mixer, actors - they should have realized it didn't make any goddamn sense, and that the last thing you want your audience thinking about as the credits roll is the math of the characters respective ages.

It's an even easier fix than the horse thing. Just have the actress in the recording studio say about LaBoeuf, ""...I judge he would be in his 60s now, and nearer 70 than 60." It doesn't quite make sense, but at least it's vaguely plausible, and even keen audience members might not puzzle over the numbers. The fixes would have been so easy, which is why it's frustrating they went of their way to fuck up the conclusion and retroactively sour the delicate, bittersweet emotional conclusion of the film.

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Christina

July 2012

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