Parents' Guide to

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

By Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Old West anthology is riveting, unconventional, violent.

Movie R 2018 133 minutes
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 15+

Based on 12 parent reviews

age 7+

Good, Ok For Younger Kids That Are Not Sqeamish

age 17+

Unconventional and existential narratives

The six vignettes are meticulously planned and after a couple I realized this film was not going to be an "up" film. Quite a few UK actors portraying grizzled Wild West archetypes (and do so flawlessly). The existentialism of so much death comes to a head in the final vignette and the film is left with what I think was an ambiguous ending. Seeing so many actors take center stage through the course of one film felt like a treat. Sometimes disconnected and disjointed but overall the tone kept all of the vignettes together.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (12 ):
Kids say (12 ):

Character-rich, strikingly photographed, with occasional humor (often irreverent) and deft moments of poignancy, the uniquely talented Coen Brothers add another gem to their long list of treasures. They leave no Old West traditions unplumbed. Crusty old-timers, garrulous con artists, and hapless victims of violence and cruelty are dealt hands that audiences have seen before, but not like this. They don't skimp on details either. Art decoration, sets, costumes, makeup, music, and framing the stories with an "authentic" book feel just right. The movie looks and sounds beautiful. The performances, from the leads to those with one line, are wonderful.

Of course, in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, some of the stories work better than others, but it's hard to pick a favorite. Some folks may find the treatment of Native Americans a bit "retro," but in this movie the characterizations appear to point up and subtly mock the off-putting depictions seen in earlier films. In their long partnership, taking extraordinary risks (see A Serious Man and The Lady Killers), having resounding successes (Fargo and No Country for Old Men), and creating "one-off" cult favorites (The Big Lebowski and O Brother, Where Art Thou?), Joel and Ethan Coen have made multitudes of fans. This film, for mature audiences, is a stellar addition to their body of work.

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