Movie Review: True Grit

With any remake, the first thing anybody wants to do is to compare the new film against the original. Being a strong proponent of Rotten Tomatoes as an accurate rating of a film’s quality, I would like to cite the numbers. The new 2010 film True Grit has received a rating of 95% while the 1969 original starring John Wayne was accorded 88%. Hey, is that enough to make any potential viewer sit up and take notice? Of course, right off the bat, this film has something going for it which almost assuredly means an excellent film: the Coen Brothers and I mean the two of them as both directors and authors of the screenplay.
Rooster Cogburn, the one eyed, drunk anti-hero is back in a redefined, over the top, ya-gotta-luv-him role of juicy proportions for Jeff Bridges. Kevin Flynn from Tron? That ain’t diddly squat in comparison with the performance Bridges delivers in this one. The Coens have put together the perfect vehicle for this Rooster who crows and crows well; cock a doodle doo, indeed. Yes, John Wayne won his only Oscar for this role in the original film – a truly great role – but I can’t help feeling that Mr. Wayne would give the star of this film a respectful nod.

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.

Some miscellany

Final Word

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?

Click HERE to read more from William Belle

References

Rotten Tomatoes: True Grit (2010): 95%
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/true-grit-2010/

Wikipedia: True Grit (2010 film)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/True_Grit_%282010_film%29

Rotten Tomatoes: True Grit (1969): 88%
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/true_grit/

Wikipedia: True Grit (1969)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/True_Grit_%281969_film%29

Wikipedia: True Grit (novel) by Charles Portis (1968)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/True_Grit_%28novel%29

Rotten Tomatoes: Rooster Cogburn: 43%
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/rooster-cogburn/

Wikipedia: Rooster Cogburn (1975)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rooster_Cogburn_%28film%29

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