This movie is either a really good homage on the Western genre or a really bad one. I have the feeling a scholar about the history of the Hollywood Western genre would really enjoy this movie, but I am not and I didn’t. (Or thought so, read on for this realization)
The Coens surely know how to do a good Western film, as they’ve proven many times, but I can’t decipher the message of this one.
Ep 1. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It reminds of the french Lucky Luke comics, and the Coens add their signature dash of fatality. I now that there was a fairly popular genre of the singing cowboy movie in the 50s, so I got the idea for this episode. Nice amuse bouche.
Ep 2. Near Algodones
Anybody getting Teddy-Westworld vibes? PANSHOT!
Ep. 3 Meal Ticket
I loved Harry Melling in this one. His oratic performance was honestly very entertaining and engaging. But that’s it. The rest is utter garbage. Beyond the distain for Liam Neeson as a human, the whole story felt quite voyeuristic. Next!
Ep. 4 All Gold Canyon
The first Episode I really liked. Maybe because it’s the first one with a real happy ending, which comes as a surprise for being made by the Coens. It had some slow TV elements, something meditative. It has a message about environment and hard, but honest work. Could have done with less CGI-deers (👀 Three Bill Boards)
Ep. 5 The Gal Who Got Rattled
The only episode with a real narrative and a female protagonist. Rock hard ending but sets a high level of cinematic work (although the whole film is visually stunning)
Ep. 6 Mortal Remains
In the last one they depart a bit from the classical Western and stroll through Washington Irving-Sleepy Hollow territory. Enjoyed this very much because of the slow reveal of the real setting and the good satirical character work.
As I wrote my thoughts on each episode on it’s one, I realise I enjoyed them more than I would’ve thought (but after all, writing is always thinking and very therapeutic on top). I think my problems with the movie stem from the reproduction of racist stereotypes. I do not claim to not enjoy anything with racist stereotypes ever, I certainly am not this insightful about everything I watch (as much as I wish to be), but it was strange to see them so obvious and so “historical accurate” from 50s and 60s Hollywood. Same with the absence of PoC protagonists or more than one female protagonist. Maybe this was the intention of the Coens, but I would’ve wished, they would incorporate their thoughts on that in the movie a bit more.
And, because everyone is doing it: My ranking
1. All Gold Canyon
2. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
3. The Gal Who Got Rattled
4. Mortal Remains
5. Near Algodones
6. Meal Ticket