True Grit

True Grit (2010) movie poster

(2010) directors Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
viewed: 12/23/10 at the California Theater, Berkeley, CA

First of all: Great Movie.

I’ve been looking forward to this film since I first read that the Coen brothers were adapting Charles Portis’ 1968 Western novel.  Several years back, a friend of mine recommended the book, which she took to in her youth, identifying with the story’s lead, 14 year old Mattie Ross, who narrates the novel and whose “voice” defines the book.  She resented the 1969 film adaptation, for its take on the material, though she loved Glenn Campbell.  I never did see the original adaptation, the John Wayne film, for which he earned his one and only Oscar.  But the book.  The book is excellent.

With the Coen brothers at the helm, Jeff Bridges in the Rooster Cogburn role, I was pretty excited about it.  And, it lives up to expectations.  It’s a deft and adept adaptation, carrying Portis’ clever and characteristic dialogue from the novel and into the script.  It’s a great yarn, with great characters, and the cast is excellent.  Matt Damon, who plays the Texas Ranger LaBeouf, was never more likable.

Like many a Western, the story is relatively simple.  After her father his murdered in cold blood by a hired hand, Mattie Ross seeks to find justice.  The Arkansas town doesn’t have the police force to track down the villain, so she looks to hire a U.S. Marshal to bring the killer to justice.  She seeks Cogburn because she deems him to have “true grit”.  He does indeed, but is also besotted often and quite irascible.  LaBeouf is also after the same man for a murder of a judge in Texas some time before.

The Coen brothers, I’ve seen all of their films.  Like many people, I’ll anticipate any film of theirs, even though they have moved away from the pure aesthetics and weird storytelling of their earlier work.   True Grit is a very straight-forward film, including a musical score that is somewhat traditional as well (and perhaps one of the film’s few weaknesses in my opinion).  But it’s a great film, with great performances, great characters.  It’s really quite a hoot.

One of the best films of the year, for sure.

One Reply to “True Grit”

  1. Perhaps it’s not strange that 2 common gripes about the film is that there are too many Coen flourishes, and ironically, that it’s too conventional. People who say it’s too conventional don’t understand the western. The Coens’ emphasis on aging and epochal change is subtle and yet richer than in Peckinpah, and the film’s vision of America unseen since Ford. Using guns to do so much more than just kill seems simple, yet new, and using it to inflect on the genre is itself an achievement. I can’t envision a better way to stage the final chase on film – simultaneously faithful to Portis and transcendent.

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