True Grit (2010)
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon
It takes a lot to adapt a novel that has already been made into an Oscar-winning film starring the legendary John Wayne. What better tandem than that of the Coen Brothers to tackle the project? Based on the 1968 Charles Portis novel, the new True Grit is a straight-forward Western that boasts a talented cast that pushes this entertaining film to the max.
True Grit is also the Coen Brothers’ most broad and mainstream film to date, but even as that is true there is still that Coen Brothers’ stamp on the film, although subtle. This is in the dark humor in each character and the precise, sharp dialogue throughout. Oh, and not to mention the excellent casting for all of the major roles.
The story is narrated by and about Mattie Ross. She seeks revenge for the man, Tom Chaney, who killed her father and will go to any length to see him brought to justice. Now, Mattie isn’t your normal 14-year-old girl. She’s as stubborn as a mule, fearless and can talk you into a corner. She is very crafty and doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. She seeks out Rooster Cogburn (Bridges), a drunken, one-eyed U.S. marshal, to track down Chaney. There is also La Boeuf (Damon), a Texas ranger, out looking for Chaney. The three of them ride out in his pursuit.
The interactions and relationships between these three become the heart of the film. All of them are likable and not in different ways. Mattie’s the one you truly root for, but she finds herself in predicaments from her foolish and stubborn way. Rooster is like your drunken but friendly uncle who has your back but isn’t completely reliable. Jeff Bridges made Rooster his own and looked like he had a lot of fun with is. La Boeuf is the strict, all-business ranger, but is good in nature and sympathetic to Mattie’s situation.
While the entire cast is excellent from Bridges (who should await an Oscar nomination), Damon, to Barry Pepper and Josh Brolin, the stand-out star is the young teenage Hailee Steinfeld. What a gem of a performance she gives. She took the quirky and quick dialogue given to her and spat them out with confidence and style. The way she was able to hold her own and even outshine Bridges and Damon is something I wouldn’t think possible. She was a remarkable find for the Coens and should reap the benefits for years to come.
I haven’t seen the original True Grit so I cannot make any comparisons, but from what I’ve been reading the Coen Brothers version is more faithful to the novel. There is always violent bloodshed in every Western and the Coens are no strangers to that. The film wraps itself up in a very traditional style and the concluding scenes of an older Mattie is truly touching. Overall, True Grit is a film that everyone can enjoy (it still sounds funny that I’m saying this about a Coen Brothers film).