True to Grit
Well, after almost a two-week break, I made it to another movie. When I first heard that the Coen Brothers were going to be making a version of Charles Portis’s novel, True Grit, I went out and rented the book from the library. That was April of last year. I did not get around to watching Henry Hathaway’s 1969 version of the film starring none other than John Wayne in his only Oscar winning role until July of this year. So, I was prepared to go see this version. The Coens kept saying that they were going to be more faithful to the source material. I thought Hathaway’s as pretty faithful, other than Kim Darby (22) being a little too old to be Mattie (14).
When the first official press shot was released, I got excited. Then, the teaser hit. I was more excited. Following that, the full feature trailer premiered. You cannot go wrong with a Johnny Cash song in a trailer. The trailer looked amazing. So, off I went with high expectations. I took my co-worker with me. The last movie he saw in theaters was Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves from 1991. So, it had been a while. We saw it at a recently built theater. It was finished about 2 years ago. The poor guy had no idea what theaters are like now.
Anyway, True Grit opens with a voice over by Mattie, played by Hailee Steinfeld, telling what started her adventures that led her to meeting U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn, played by Jeff Bridges and Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, played by Matt Damon. Mattie, being only fourteen years old, has quite a head on her shoulders. She is shrewd businesswoman, hard negotiator, and will not take “no” for an answer. Mattie Ross finally convinces the drunken Marshall to let her accompany him and the Ranger. The trio head off into the Chickasaw Indian country in pursuit of Chaney, played by Josh Brolin. Chaney, who they find out has taken in with Luck Ned Pepper’s gang, killed Mattie’s father in cold blood.
True Grit follows the original movie and book like you would expect. I enjoyed the movie. I loved it, actually. I tried very hard to not compare this to the original. I did a good job until the ending. Once the trio catches up with Ned and his gang, all I could see and hear was the original. Barry Pepper plays Ned Pepper, but it was more like Barry Pepper playing Robert Duvall playing Ned. The famous standoff scene just seemed a bit off in this “revisioning.” Jeff Bridges did a great job making Rooster his own, and not stepping on The Duke’s portrayal. But the “Fill your hands, you son of a bitch!” line just did not sound right. That one spot is the only one thing that grated on me for the entire film.
The western genre is a dying one. Over the last few years, the ones that have come out have been amazing. I just wish that the new generation of moviegoers would support them. Appaloosa was based on a series of books, but it did not set the box office on fire enough for its three sequels to get the coveted greenlight. 3:10 to Yuma was another remake of an old western. It just did not have John Wayne in it.
Make no mistake, True Grit was a great film. It is award worthy. The Coen brothers are incredible directors and gifted writers. Yet, for them to say this is more true to the novel confuses me. The script is almost line for line from the original. The direction is better, but I don’t know if I would say the film was much different. They did, however, have a darker tone. The dialog was a bit comical at times, which differed from the original. The acting is superb, though Jeff Bridges is hard to understand at times, as is Josh Brolin. Hailee Steinfeld stole the show. She was incredible. I could not believe that is actually fourteen. I would love to see her pick up a nomination like Haley Joel Osment and Abigail Breslin. The Coens could easily get a well deserved direction nomination, and possibly a writing one, too. I would be surprised to see Matt Damon get anything for his role.
Verdict: True Grit may not be an original film. It may be a dying genre. But it still stands tall as a great film of 2010. I urge you to see this movie. It is worth the money for sure.
Here is the famous scene I mentioned above: