This film and the 1969 film are both based on a 1968 novel of the same name by Charles Portis whose fame rests mainly on this book and another called Norwood (1966) which was made into a movie in 1970. For those who love details, Glen Campbell starred alongside John Wayne in the 1969 True Grit movie and was the star for Norwood. – I have not read the original Portis book but critics are saying that the Coens have remained more faithful to the book than the 1969 movie. Is that good or bad? I can’t say but I’m not sure it matters.
Briefly, a 14 year old Mattie sets out to avenge the killing of her father by a drifter called Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). She hires Cogburn but in all this, a Texas Ranger named La Beouf (Matt Damon) who is also after Chaney teams up. Not really a spoiler alert, eh? The real delight is in the characters. The dialogue is very different, supposedly of that era – yeah, like I would know – but is quite charming in its form of politeness. Gee, did people really talk that way back then? Maybe we all need to take lessons.
The "starring" role per se is the 14 year old girl Mattie Ross played by Hailee Steineld. My goodness, could a 14 year old have so much gumption? She is a real spitfire and the scene where a businessman tries to take advantage of her and she not only holds her own but beats him into the ground (figuratively) during a deal is quite funny. The movie really shines with the dynamic between Mattie and Rooster, the antithesis of movie characters: the young girl starting out in life and the slovenly, jaded man who’s lost just about everything but carries on anyway. Their give and take, his trying to intimidate her and her standing up to him with determination makes for some remarkable scenes.
The Coen Brothers
Yes, they are brothers. Joel David Coen (b Nov 29/1954) and Ethan Jesse Coen (b Sept 21/1957) have worked together since 1984 and according to The Sunday Times are known in the industry as the two headed director. Their visions are so closely overlapping that actors can approach either brother and get the same answer.
For those who don’t pay attention to the details of the films they see, the names of a couple of films may jog your memory: Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where For Art Thou?, No Country for Old Men and Burn After Reading. Having seen all of these films and even others on their résumé, I can say that these two produce a quality product.
Their track record speaks for itself. This listing from Wikipedia shows that their output is fairly consistent in quality as seen by the ratings of both Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb. On top of it, the films make a profit but in their recent films such as No Country For Old Men and Burn After Reading, their grosses are through the roof.
- A "second" film with the character was made in 1975 called Rooster Cogburn starring John Wayne and Katharine Hepburn. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 43%.
- True Grit: A Further Adventure was 1978 made-for-television movie sequel starring Warren Oates
Did I mention Tron Legacy, Jeff Bridges’ other film? Rotten Tomatoes gave it 48%. True Grit got 95%. Hmmm, now let me see [stare at the ceiling looking reflective] which one should I go see?
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Rotten Tomatoes: True Grit (2010): 95%
Wikipedia: True Grit (2010 film)
Rotten Tomatoes: True Grit (1969): 88%
Wikipedia: True Grit (1969)
Wikipedia: True Grit (novel) by Charles Portis (1968)
Rotten Tomatoes: Rooster Cogburn: 43%
Wikipedia: Rooster Cogburn (1975)