True True Grit

by nkronos on January 30, 2011


I don’t want to review the new True Grit because I think Stanley Fish has already written the definitive response to it. Nevertheless, after watching it I do have a few remarks:

When I first heard this movie was being made, I thought Jeff Bridges was crazy to reprise John Wayne’s signature character of Rooster Cogburn. I was wrong. Bridges well deserves his Oscar nomination. I would go so far to say he deserves to win, except I haven’t seen enough of the other performances.

The movie is much, much truer to the book than the Wayne version. As a result, it’s also a much more interesting film.

Hailee Steinfeld is quite the actress for her age; there is no comparison between what she brings to this movie and Kim Darby did to hers. Moreover, her lines are not easy ones, and perhaps their overly formal language helps. My biggest complaint about kid actors of the last decade or so is they all act like other actors–not like real kids. This is true of adults, too, for that matter, but it is not nearly so universal as it is with the young. Reality TV is completing the transition of people viewing their lives as imitating performances they’ve seen, rather than performances imitating a larger life.

One quibble regarding Steinfeld is she’s not ugly enough to match Mattie Ross as described in the book. This shows up as a fault in a couple of places in the film in which other characters make references to her looks.

The other criticism I have is equally minor: I would have eliminated everything to do with the swinging body scene, including the bearskin-wearing man on horseback. As best as I remember, that’s not in the book, and it’s just pointless. I would have used the minutes gained there to extend the epilogue in which Ross is grown and looking for Cogburn. Just a little bit. It’s kind of rushed as is and lacking sufficient emotional impact consequently.

Still, this is the best new movie I’ve seen in a while and a much more effective and well-crafted film than the Coen Brothers effort that won Best Picture three years ago, No Country for Old Men.

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