Sunday, January 16, 2011

True grit, true grime

When my family moved to Brampton this fall, it brought to an end 16 years of life in Malton (well, I really only lived there for about 11). For the uninitiated, Malton is a first-ring suburb of Toronto that could charitably be called working-class, and is otherwise a cross between Michael Moore's Roger and Me, a Boyz II Men music video and the low-quality Bollywood movie of your choice. Brampton is where those people move when they become affluent, to live in the McMansions of second-ring suburbs.

I went to high school in Brampton, of course, but this is north Brampton, in many ways the frontier between relentless development and farmland. The snowy ravine behind my house lead to a thoroughfare, across the road is an Esso gas station...behind which is the Heart Lake Conservation Area, where so many of my high school races happened.

Ironically, as much open space as there is in Brampton, much of it admittedly snowed and frozen over at the moment, life in Brampton is best when you never really have to deal with anybody else in Brampton. This is a city where you can walk from your living room to your garage and drive until you reach the underground parking lot of your office.

The moment when you have to interact with the others is where it all starts to break down. I had the pleasure to catch the Coen Brothers' True Grit last night at the Trinity Commons SilverCity. Since there's really nothing else to do in Brampton once the big box electronics stores close down, movie theatres seem absurdly busy. Lest one race feel superior to another, there are equal helpings of brown trash and white trash on display, mutual in their love of quadruple-extra-large parkas with fur hoods and unsightly facial hair.

The movie itself was a nice trip back into American history, actual history, not the sort you hear about on Glenn Beck. Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon personify the eternal American conflict between rugged individualism, however imaginary and flawed, and seemingly dowdy federalism, with its advantages.

Bridges is the US marshal who shoots first, asks questions later and unceremoniously kicks natives. Damon almost reprises the roly poly character he had in The Informant. He is overly formal, legalistic and verbose, the American state uniforming eyepatched individualists like Bridges. The characters are obviously relevant to America's reprised struggle between the individual and the state, conducted through the prism of historical myths.

A great feature of True Grit is its attempt to recreate contemporary dialogue. It is set in 1878 and the characters more or less sound like it, at least more so than virtually any other historical movie I can remember. Consider that we produce historical movies invariably in English and invariably present-day dialogue. If the movie is really old, they might pick up British accents, but generally watching a movie set in the past is like watching a middle school conception of history.

3 comments:

Shan said...

does that mean your family lives close to Riyaad's family now?

Adeel said...

No, they moved to just outside Malton, actually.

andré said...

I spent too many weekends at Trinity Commons growing up.