The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a 2018 American western anthology film written, directed, and produced by the Coen brothers. It stars Tim Blake Nelson, Liam Neeson, James Franco, Brendan Gleeson, Zoe Kazan, Tyne Daly, Harry Melling, and Tom Waits, and features six vignettes that take place in the American frontier.
Well, it definitely feels like a Coen brothers film. Its like the western version of the brothers Grimm stories.
I have never been a huge fan of westerns. I am not American so it has always been a fantasy setting for me. Like something that wasn’t even part of my country’s history at an point. Watching everyone be dusty and crusty and dry just makes me uncomfortable. Like, when do these people bathe? They dont have a lot of water so, do they even bathe, let alone regularly? There is so much sand everywhere. And people who ride, they would probably always be covered in dust. And the second someone falls down in the sand and they blow on it, makes my own throat feel super dry. Like all that sand and dust getting on your clothes. But besides my OCD pet peeves regarding movie settings, this movie is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a western anthology film. Its a collection of shorter films. Sometimes anthology films can have shorts directed by different directors. But Ballad of Buster Scruggs are all directed by the Coehn brothers. Each story is set in a western setting.. Each short transitions on to the next one with a book animation, making them seem like short stories in an existing book (if they do write these down in a book , I would love to read it). Each story is similar in its theme of – life is not fair. At least thats what I took away from it.
Going into this movie, I did not know what it was about. I knew it was a western and I assumed Buster Scruggs would be one of the characters, but besides that, I knew nothing. I heard good things about it and one weekend decided to dive into it. The cast is absolutely stellar in the movie. Each member did a fantastic job. There were some favorites that I did not even know were in the movie. To be honest I had only heard about James Franco and Harry Melling being in this movie. But each did a fantastic job of selling characters that did not have the liberty to set themselves up due to the short duration of each story.
I will try and talk about the shorts overall instead of discussing each at the same time. Like I said earlier, each story seems to have the same message at its crux, life is not fair. Granted each has a different theme and a differing setting. I do wish I had gotten to see the movie on the big screen, since due to limited time in each story, things are set up very fast. Its all show dont tell, with even the plot hardly being spelled out. I really appreciate that in a movie. You know, your audience is not full of idiots. Just makes me admire movie makers more when they respect their fans. The shorts all abruptly start and end. Like small vignettes, each part of a bigger movie. The stories do not shy away from violence and have a dark sense of humour about them. I think people that can appreciate the grim realities of life would really enjoy this movie.
I had a good time watching it. I try not to pay attention to a movie’s marketing beyond the first trailer or piece of news. I like going into a movie blind, so the dark and grim setting of the shorts took me by surprise a little. But the movies are well made and set up in so much detail but at the same time so economically, that you dont need much setup to get your story across. Each short feels complete on its own. The characters give only enough exposition as conversation thats needed for the story. Theres not frivolous back stories and no drama for characters that dont matter. Ballad of Buster Scruggs is an amazing movie. Its very different from the major releases this year. Despite the black humour and the morose stories, its a fun and very refreshing to watch
What did you think about the movie? Which ones do you wish should have gone differently? Let me know.
Until next time