True Grit Directed by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen Cast: Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Barry Pepper, Josh Brolin Running Time: 1 hr 53 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: December 22, 2010
PLOT: Based on the novel by Charles Portis, a 14-year-old girl (Steinfeld) wants to avenge her father's death and enlists the help of an aging Marshall named Rooster Cogburn (Bridges) to get the job done.
WHO'S IT FOR? It's a movie that will see it's fair share of nominations. This barely feels like a Coen brothers film. That's not a compliment or insult. There are moments of violence that almost make you question the PG-13 rating.
EXPECTATIONS: With Darren Aronofsky you might not always love the final result, but there's reasons to expect quality. The same can be said with the Coen brothers. Also, Bridges, Damon and Brolin acting like cowboys had me excited.
ACTORS: Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn: It's a comedy. The question is, do we decide Rooster is hilarious because Bridges is delivering the lines or because the Coens wanted to get this many laughs? Actually, who cares about the question, just enjoy the ride. Rooster states the obvious to great affect. He's old, fat and drunk. Also, the Coen brothers have stated many times this isn't a remake of the film, but instead based on the novel. I assume that's why the eye patch is on the opposite side that John Wayne had it. Bridges is becoming larger than live and you'll remember this performance for years to come. Score: 9
Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross: Steals the show from the show stealers. This movie fails without her. She's a very self-confident, intelligent adult trapped in a young teenager's body. There's no talk about how Mattie because this way, she just is. Steinfeld is the lead of this film and it's a shame it doesn't look like she'll be considered for Best Actress but instead of Best Supporting Actress. Score: 10
Matt Damon as LaBoeuf: There's the Damon I love. LaBeouf is overdone in a really good way. He's a Texas ranger and he won't let you forget it. He's in love with it and is close to the exact opposite of Rooster. In fact, even though he's the more commendable man, he's also the one who steps over the line with Mattie. It's a great balance, plus there's some killer hair and a mustache to boot. Score: 9
Josh Brolin as Tom Chaney and Barry Pepper as Lucky Ned Pepper: While their acting is worth waiting for, the characters are in need of a couple more scenes and backstory. Brolin shows a new side which can be described as dim. Pepper clearly wants to be a Pepper too, and does with wool chaps amongst other things. Score: 8
TALKING: While Mattie eeks out about 300 words per minute, Rooster says the perfect thing at the perfect time. It's something that actually becomes the rhythm of the film, with Bridges hitting a one-liner and then they cut to the next scene. It leaves you chuckling. Score: 8
SIGHTS: The Coen brothers nail the look and feel of a Western. The outfits are fantastic with Lucky Ned winning that contest. The green screen is used when Rooster and Mattie are riding on Little Blackie. It took me out of the moment for a second, but then it eventually works. Score: 9
SOUNDS: It's one of the best musical scores of the year. It's exactly what you'd want from the sound of a Western. This could get a higher score, but the song that ends the film is a bit of a problem. At first listen, it's shrill. Upon the second listen, Iris DeMent’s rendition of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” is better. The guns blast louder than life when the violence is turned up a notch. Score: 9
BEST SCENE: I'm shocked to say it doesn't involve Rooster. Mattie wakes up to find LaBeouf in her room. A battle of wits ensues. It perfectly encapsulates the characters and the times that this film is set in.
ENDING: Slightly lacking. Little Blackie, Rooster and Mattie were great. I'm referring to what happens next. Again, I assume they followed the novel, but that doesn't mean the novel is perfection.
QUESTIONS: Was there a meaningful villain?
REWATCHABILITY: I'm writing this on a Sunday afternoon trying to decide if I should watch True Grit again or one of the many movies I haven't seen yet this year. Yes, I have screeners.
Sometimes not even I can avoid movie news about films no matter how hard I try. I had heard the Coen brothers remark that they were adapting the novel, not remaking the film. Now, even though my dad had probably told me a half dozen times to watch it, I never saw the John Wayne original. Once I header of this project, I decided I didn't want to compare and contrast. This version is my True Grit.
I love this Western world and cast of characters. I couldn't believe how funny it was. That seems to be a theme with The King's Speech, The Fighter and this getting more laughs than expected for a drama. Those films had me laughing out loud more than The Other Guys or Due Date. Any fault I have with this film is within the story. In all likelihood, I'm referring to the source material. Lucky Ned seems to need an extra scene or two, or maybe even a flashback to fully understand if we fear or care about his rivalry with Rooster. The very end of the film seems out of sorts, and disconnected from the rest of the movie. Then again, the Coen brothers can simply throw up their arms and say they were making a proper adaption. The characters are so colorful and engaging that you can easily overlook these things that I have pointed out. In fact, it's the best overall cast of the year. To make another version of this movie takes ... I'm going to say it, I'm going to say it ... True Grit. Yes, the Coen brothers and the cast have what it takes. This is one of the best of the year.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10