Articles in the March 2011 Department
The Religious Right is also (apparently) a breeding ground for predatory hucksters, grinning matchstick men who Get Religion so long as it gets them into your wallet. What The Last Exorcism does with that stereotype is rather refreshing. Cotton Marcus’s journey of rediscovering faith by confronting the forces of darkness isn’t really anything new, but it is something special. What I think the film communicates, rather than these simple explanations, is that when the chips are down, people have a surprising capacity for nobility. Even people who make a mockery of faith or the credulity of their trusting flock can find the courage to hold a candle to the darkness. There’s heroism in that.
Most Coen films are about characters who think they are smart, slick operators who are cleverly manipulating events to their own advantage. So it is with True Grit, in which Mattie Ross thinks she’s corralled the meanest bounty hunter in the Territory into tracking down her father’s killer for her, but once she’s wound him up, paid him, and sent him forth, she finds that the old bastard has a mind of his own. Nothing pans out the way the characters think it should. Not quite. Even within the confines of an established Western classic, the Coens find a way to emphasize the way even the most able, driven, and tough people don’t necessarily get what they want in the way they want it.