A ‘grittier’ True Grit than the original

Movie review by Greg West

true_gritIn one of my high school English classes I was given the assignment of reading Charles Portis' classic novel, True Grit . After the allotted time given to read it, we were to turn in a book report and also take a test on it. I never got around to reading it, but having seen the original movie starring John Wayne, I managed to get a passing grade. The 1969 made True Grit has since become one of my all-time favorite movies and I regret not having ever read the novel; something which I will have to remedy.

That being said, I am always wary when someone does a remake of one of my favorite films, as they usually end up ruining something that was a perfectly good movie in the first place. Take The Day the Earth Stood Still , for example: The 2008 remake of this classic 1951 science fiction film was completely abysmal, and a complete waste of my time and money.

I rarely go to the movie theater these days as it is less expensive to buy or rent a movie when it comes out on DVD; not to mention it only takes one loud mouth jerk, or someone talking on their cell phone, etc., to ruin your whole movie going experience. But having seen the previews for the remake of True Grit, and having read many favorable reviews, I decided to take a chance on it for date night with my wife, who also happens to be a fan of the original film.

After foregoing taking out a second mortgage to be able to spring for popcorn and a soda, my wife and my thirsty self settled in and anxiously awaited the start of the movie. We endured the mind numbing trivia slides (no, I don’t care who was voted ‘best dressed’ at the 2005 Oscar Awards), and the commercials that were so ear-splittingly loud that I thought we had accidently seated ourselves in a special theater for the near deaf and hard-of-hearing.

For those of you not yet familiar with the the plot, True Grit, set in the Oklahoma Territory in the late 1800’s, is the story of a savvy, yet naïve, young teenage girl, Mattie Ross, who sets out on a quest to see that the murderer of her father (who was ‘bushwhacked’ by hired hand Tom Chaney for two gold pieces), is brought to justice. Mattie ends up convincing the crude whiskey drinking U.S. Marshall, Rueben ‘Rooster’ Cogburn, a man who has few redeeming qualities other than being rumored to have ‘grit’, to take the job of bringing Chaney in to be tried and hanged.

The movie finally started and I was drawn into the already familiar story from the opening scene.  Jeff Bridges reprises John Wayne’s Oscar winning performance in the role of the fat one-eyed law man and I have to admit, I thought that if anyone could pull off this role as well as The Duke, it would be Bridges. I was not disappointed. The original cast of John Wayne, Robert Duvall, Glenn Campbell, and Kim Darby, is an ensemble that is hard to beat; but rounding out the fine cast in this version is Matt Damon; Barry Pepper (ironically cast as ‘Lucky’ Ned Pepper); Josh Brolin; and first time movie actress Hailee Steinfeld, who is absolutely brilliant as the young Mattie Ross.

Although I have not seen many of the other movies directed by the popular Coen brothers (and I really have not cared much for the few that I have), I have to tip my proverbial hat to them on this one. With this remake of the classic film, the Coen brothers manage to keep the charm of the original, while at the same time offering the audience a ‘grittier’ True Grit than the original. The story and characters in this remake have subtle differences from the first film, and though while not surpassing it, make it at the very least, just as good as the original and is definitely worth watching; and without giving anything away, Rooster Cogburn does, in the end, prove to be a man of ‘true grit’.

The Poached Egg