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December 1, 2010

Have the Coen Bros. Gone Family-Friendly?

Directors of 'True Grit' remake say it's 'tonally' different from previous projects

Saying they grew up on Disney movies as kids, the Coen Brothers note that their new film, True Grit, opening Dec. 22 with a PG-13 rating, is "tonally different than what we've done before," Joel Cohen told USA Today.

The brothers told the newspaper they wanted to make the kind of movie that they enjoyed as kids, and they say the holiday release date -- typical of more family-friendly fare -- is appropriate. "We thought that seemed to make sense, because it is a young-adult adventure story," Ethan Coen said.

Their version is darker than the 1969 version, starring John Wayne, but still has a "winking playfulness," according to the newspaper, with much of the film playing as a comedy. "That's something people do associate with our movies," says Joel Coen, "the fact that there is a humorous element." The brothers said they took much of the humorous dialogue straight from the 1968 novel by Charles Portis. "There's a formality to it," Ethan says. "And no one uses contractions."


This doesn't really surprise me. These are the same filmmakers who gave us Raising Arizona and O' Brother, Where Art Thou? They have a few other movies that are not rated R too, such as The Hudsucker Proxy (PG), and Intolerable Cruelty (PG-13). True, they have recently made a string of mature movies but this article seems to aim much of its argument at convincing families that they should take their kids to see this film despite the filmmakers reputation for extreme violence. It may be true that this is a good movie that fathers and daughters can bond over but the article doesn't really address the vagueness of what "family-friendly" means, despite a brief mention at the beginning of "depending on the age of the kids."

Why does it surprise us when we hear the "Coens" are making a "family-friendly" film. My guess, is that when we hear that, we actually hear "violent filmmakers" are making an " inoffensive movie that represents values my kids will understand." The problem with this, is that we don't investigate further. I can already debunk the myth that the Coens have never made a movie I would show to my 10 year old brother. Raising Arizona is very sweet adventure movie that, knowing him and his maturity level, I believe he could watch with maturity. So, why should we accept this definition of "family-friendly" if the article doesn't even remember its history very well? I believe we should take whatever the media says with a grain of salt and do our own investigations. Especially when it's something so important as what films I would take my family to.

Were we surprised when Zack Snyder (director of 300 and Watchmen) directed a PG rated animated film this year. Well, I was, but I didn't read any articles about it. However, this article even admits that the studios were worried about this film not "fitting" with the Dec. 22 release date. Hmm... a few fluff articles should help with that.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love most of the movies the Coen Bros. make and am eagerly anticipating True Grit, but this article is irrelevant. If I take my brother to see it, I'm going to investigate whether or not he is mature enough for it. I'm not going to let an article tell me what to think about it.

NOTE: I'm in in bed and sick. I have waaay too much time on my hands and hope that this rant doesn't come off too strong or mean.

First, let me say that under most circumstances I want to encourage family-friendly movie options.
However, I think that the family-friendliness of the film should be determined by the audience not the filmmakers. I guess that I doubt that their standards are the same as mine.
I could be wrong.