Wednesday, February 9, 2011

True Grit

The Coen brothers' "True Grit" with Jeff Bridges as Marshal Rooster Cogburn is a very good film, as was Henry Hathaway's "True Grit" of 1969, with John Wayne in the same role. Both films were built around the strong bones of Charles Portis' wonderful little novel of the same name. Some critics wondered why the Coens wanted to remake a successful adaptation, others opined that the film wasn't funny, which would have been a first for a Coen brothers film. I'm glad they made the story again and, of course, it is funny, in their usual terribly dark way.

The Hathaway version is as good as it is because they imported most of Portis' superb dialogue and because John Wayne makes an excellent old reprobate. On the other hand they sentimentalized the ending. Not so the Coens. They stuck to the book in all ways except for a section in the middle involving a hanged man and a dentist in bear's clothing that they invented. I felt those two scenes were their tribute to "The Old, Weird America" that is channeled by Harry Smith's Anthology.

Following an ancient convention, the 1969 film used 21 year old actress Kim Darby to play 14 year old Mattie Ross, who employs Cogburn to revenge her father's murder. She did a good job but was not believable as being that age. The Coens found a remarkable 14 year old actress, Hailee Steinfeld, to play the girl. She does a great job of portraying a kid who turns out to have more grit than a regiment of Texas Rangers. This quality may not make her lovable but does make her formidable. An older actress, Elizabeth Marvel, plays her in the two brief but important scenes that end the movie. See the movie and find out what, "Keep your seat, trash!"means. I recommend it.


Lo said...

& by old weird America you mean 1969?

Bureau Chief said...

1769, 1869, 1969. What a long strange trip it's been.