Nominated for three Oscars this season, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is another quirky and offbeat film from acclaimed directors Joel and Ethan Coen. The film is broken up into six completely unrelated segments, each set in the old west and each with its own set of characters. The danger of making anthology style films is that some stories are inevitably more interesting than others, and Buster Scruggs is no exception.
Across all six chapters, there is consistently excellent cinematography. The saturated colors of each unique setting really made the scenery and landscapes pop. The production and costume design are very impressive and authentic to the time period. Carter Burwell contributes a subtle but suitable musical score. Plus, all the acting is quite good, from the familiar faces of Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, and Liam Neeson, to lesser-known performers.
The first two stories are absolutely great. They blended dark comedy with memorable characters and entertaining scenarios. Once these first two segments are over however, the film starts to go downhill. Stories three and four have interesting ideas and work overall but get somewhat repetitive. The fifth tale is easily the most developed but is much longer by comparison to the others and should have been trimmed down. The final chapter is a slow, boring affair that should have been cut out entirely.
In the end, there are flashes of excellence throughout, but as a whole, this film isn’t a great piece of work. Perhaps it would have worked better as a miniseries in which, each story was given the time to be more fleshed out. It is worth checking out for the unique experience and for its stronger segments, but this film is definitely not a must-see. The Ballad of Busters Scruggs is currently available on Netflix and is always open to more reviews and interpretations.
Categories: Arts and Culture