I generally don’t like remakes and I was never a big John Wayne fan either. So this one had two strikes against it (for me). Then it began to receive some buzz, and I belatedly found out that it was a Coen Brothers film. How did this fact fly under my radar? Plus, I had forgotten that it was from a Charles Portis book. So I decided to see it. Once again, it could easily have waited for the DVD release – like so many films these days. But I’m trying to give more movies a shot at the box office this year, so I went to see it while waiting for my auto repair.
True Grit is one of those end of an era westerns. You know, the days are well on their way to being in the past. Time to hit the nostalgia rodeo circuit. The best thing about the film is the character of Mattie Ross. This is certainly due to the writing of Portis. On the other hand, Hailee Steinfeld blows away the performances of both Jeff Bridges (reprising the John Wayne role as Rooster Cogburn) and Matt Damon (LaBoeuf). Josh Brolin, in a much smaller role, is excellent as the murderer (Tom Chaney) that gets Mattie Ross so exorcised. Coming after Bridges’ acclaimed role as Crazy Hearts‘ Bad Blake, this role comes as a huge letdown, derivative not of Wayne, but of some Kris Kristofferson B-movie role. Coincidentally (or maybe not so coincidentally), I referenced KK in my notes on that film as well. It worked there, though.
I read True Grit years ago (in a Charles Portis orgy). I don’t recall exactly how true to the novel the dialogue of the Mattie Ross’ character is, but I bet it’s very close. And Hailee Steinfeld delivers them all with just the right amount of precociousness. She, not necessarily the movie, was really fun to watch.