Thursday, December 30, 2010


The Other Half and I saw Joel & Ethan Coen's True Grit last week in the run up to the holidays. We've always been a fan of the Coen Brothers, and I think we have seen most of their entire oeuvre (Raising Arizona, Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink, Fargo, The Hudsucker Proxy, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men and Burn After Reading) although we skipped last year's Osar-nominated A Serious Man.

True Grit stars Jeff Bridges in the role that won John Wayne his Best Actor Oscar (which Bridges won last year for Crazy Heart), Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and introduces Hailee Stanfield. Stanfield plays 14-year-old Mattie Ross who hires Bridges' U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn to hunt down Brolin's Tom Chaney who killed Mattie's father and stole a horse. Damon plays a Texas Ranger named La Boeuf who has been tracking Chaney for years but hasn't been able to get very close to him. The three (La Boeuf, Cogburn and Ross) reluctantly join forces to find Chaney in the unincorporated Western Territory even though Mattie wants Chaney captured so that he can hang for killing her father while La Boeuf needs Chaney alive to be brought back to Texas in order to collect a substantial reward. Cogburn will go along with anyone who can guarantee him a steady enough to income to pay for his excessive alcohol consumption.

The original True Grit is a classic Western, based loosely on a book by the same name by Charles Portis. The novel has very stylized language (there are no contractions like "can't" or "ain't"); the Coen Brothers adapted the book, kept most of the formal dialogue and inserted broad humor.

In relation to the end-of-year award sweepstakes True Grit holds its own as an enjoyable, well-made and well-acted film in a genre which hearkens back to the Golden Age of Hollywood. It is not as meaningful a film as Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven, which re-imagined and re-invigorated the Western. However, (somewhat surprisingly to some) the Coen Brothers have not produced a quirky parody of a Western, but a pretty straightforward example which emphasizes the strengths of the form.

TitleTrue Grit.
Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some intense sequences of western violence including disturbing images.
Release Date: Wednesday, December 22, 2010.
Attendance Date: Thursday, December 23, 2010.

Writing: A-.
Acting: A.
Visuals: A-.
Impact: A-.

Overall Grade: A- (3.75/4.0).

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