Pam and I saw “True Grit” this afternoon. I love westerns, and always try to see them on the big screen. That’s the only way to do a western justice.
The 1969 John Wayne version, of course, is a classic. He won “Best Actor” for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn. When I heard that Jeff Bridges was playing that role in the 2010 remake, I thought, “What?!?” It just didn’t strike me right. But let me tell you: Bridges was superb! It was a very, very different Rooster, but an incredible performance. Or so I thought.
But the real star was Hailee Steinfeld, playing the Mattie Ross role. Kim Darby played that role as a young adult woman, or at least that’s how I remember it. In the 2010 remake, as in the book, Mattie Ross is a 14-year-old girl. And whereas Kim Darby’s Mattie was cute, Hailee’s version is plain.
The movie begins by focusing the first 15 minutes or so on Mattie Ross, cementing in our minds that the movie is about her, not about Rooster Cogburn. In those early scenes, I developed a real fondness for the Mattie Ross character, who is bright, spunky, fearless, and mature beyond her years.
Glenn Campbell played the Texas Ranger LaBoeuf in the original. It wasn’t a standout performance, but a good one. Likewise for Matt Damon’s work in the remake. Nothing special about it.
Robert Duvall played Ned Pepper in 1969. Barry Pepper, best known as the sniper in “Saving Private Ryan,” played him in the remake. You could hardly see Pepper in the character. He gave a different take on the classic line, “I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man”–same words, but different delivery. I think I like the way Duvall did it better, but both were good.
The remake, from what I understand, is much more faithful to the book, especially in revolving around Mattie Ross. Much dialogue is taken verbatim from the book. That’s pretty obvious, because the wording and phrasing is by no means contemporary, as was the dialogue in the 1969 version. The dialogue is very foreign to the way we talk today.
The story is roughly the same. You see Mattie Ross recruiting Rooster to pursue the man who killed her father. The scene at the cabin by the river is very similar (yet different). There’s the open-plain charge by Rooster against Ned Pepper’s gang–Rooster taking the reigns in his teeth and firing with both pistols, with similar results. There’s Mattie’s fall into the snakepit, and the mad dash to get her treated. So many similarities.
And yet, there are scenes that don’t appear in the original, and new takes. They travel through snow, for instance. And the epilogue is new.
I really liked this movie. I knew I would, but it’s different than what I expected. Especially considering that the Coen Brothers made the movie. These are the guys who made Raising Arizona, Fargo, O Brother Where Art Thou, No Country for Old Men, and other movies with serious quirks. But here, with True Grit, they played it straight. And that was the right choice.1 Comment