Title: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
MPAA Rating: R
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Starring: Tim Blake Nelson, Liam Neeson, James Franco
Runtime: 2 hr 13 minutes
What It Is: An anthology film featuring six short films set in the Western era of the US, detailing the lives of western outlaws, cowboys, struggling artists, lonely maidens and prospectors and the challenges these individuals face.
What We Think: Being my first anthology film exploring this particular genre, I was pleasantly surprised at the utter creative approach to storytelling in the film. Yes, this is a western film, but its not any old western film you may have seen before. There’s no beaten out cliche about a cowboy being a beautiful maiden’s hero or an antihero outlaw living an average life of crime. Basically, throw your previous genre based assumptions out the windows, because they just don’t fly here. What this film does is it takes an honestly worn out genre (the 60’s gave us too many western features) and gives it that fresh spin we all didn’t even know we wanted. See, at times I believe you will disregard the genre itself, almost even forget its there, and let yourself be sucked into the reality of natural human behavior and occurrences. Some of us are good, some of us are mad, the majority are fairly decent and at the end of the day, life sucks at some point or another.
One particular short film stuck out to me the most in the anthology: Meal Ticket. Films that make you conjure the most assumptions are, in my opinion, the best because these assumptions that arise begin to have you speculate on what you just watched for a number of reasons. You could question what is real or not real about what you just witnessed, and even question your own perspective on the way you see…life, really. Based on the short in question, I’m left to question the level or even legitimacy of loyalty, and whether that word even means anything to anyone anymore. Yes, there are those people in some of our lives who, dare I say, produce some level of stress or even burden on our own existence but…what kind of an excuse is that? Is it a good one? Is it a decent one? Is it a bad one? Honestly, it just may be how you look at it.
Our Grade: A, Not a grade I am used to giving out, but I am also not used to seeing films that make me ask myself questions about how I feel and what I think. This feature easily falls into the handful I need to rewatch. Intelligent dialogue and fleshed out characters are a solid win for me, and yet I still feel incomplete in some regard, like the answers to the questions I have were staring me in the face the whole time. Or maybe they weren’t. I’ll just need to give it several more views to see.