Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The New 'True Grit' a Great Movie

Andrew and I saw True Grit last night at the Rave, and what a treat it was. We had been looking forward to this. I re-watched the original 1969 version a few weeks ago just to remind myself of the story.

Jeff Bridges plays the one-eyed, whiskey-indulging, cantankerous Marshal Rooster Cogburn, who was played by John Wayne in the original. Matt Damon plays the supporting role of the Texas Ranger La Boeuf, originally played by equally as well by Glen Campbell.

What surprised me the most was how similar the new movie was to the original. The storyline was virtually the same. The characters were very similar. Even much of the dialogue remained close. I expected much more of a re-vamping. The similarities, however, do not dampen the new Grit. A good story is a good story, whether told in 1969 or 2010.

Curiously, the movie opens with a printed word from Proverbs 28:1: "The wicked flee when none pursueth." It's a bit of a mystery until one realizes the emphasis of the movie falls on "none pursueth" instead of "the wicked flee." The comment is made that Tom Chaney, even though he fled on horseback after killing a man, could just as easily have walked out of town and still gotten away. It is the victim's daughter, 14-year-old Mattie Ross, who gets anyone to pursue at all.

Comparing actors, I like Jeff Bridges better than John Wayne--and I really liked John Wayne. He’s coarse and funny, gruff and soft-hearted, a law-breaker and a law enforcer. As for the main character, the 14-year-old Mattie Ross, who is out to avenge her father’s death, whether Marshal Cogburn will accommodate her or not, I much preferred Hailee Steinfeld over the 1969 Kim Darby. Both characters were remarkably similar--confident, saucy, accepting adults as peers and expecting to be treated the same. But while I grudgingly admit the quality of Kim Darby's performance, her character, for me, crosses the “annoying” line. There is something endearing about Steinfeld’s performance.

The movie opens with an old piano playing “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” which turns out to be a theme song that recurs in variations throughout the movie. It is an appropriate theme song. The movie is populated with characters who display fierce independence, but in the end, they all need help. Mattie Ross needs Rooster to get the murderer Tom Chaney, and when he appears to fail, she swallows her pride and appeals to La Boeuf. Rooster needs no one, but his hide is saved by a crack shot from La Boeuf, a man he derides as contributing nothing to the manhunt. And neither La Boeuf nor Rooster find Tom Chaney. It’s Mattie who stumbles upon him after the two men have called it quits. Mattie’s life is saved twice, once by the marshal and once by the Texas ranger. Even Mattie and the marshal together cannot save Mattie’s life; a horse gives his life to get her to a doctor.

The sets and scenery are stunning. The soundtrack is effectively minimal.

The only thing I don't like about the new Grit is the ending. The original ended with the young Mattie Ross and the marshal standing by her father’s grave. The new one has a spinster-esque 40-year-old Mattie Ross standing by the marshal’s grave. She’s severe, austere, and sharp-tongued. I prefer being left with the image of the young Ross and the live marshal.

1 comment:

Espana said...

This is a really good movie and a good western. The acting was especially good, especially the actress that played Mattie. The ending however was a little bittersweet.