Movies

True Grit

The Coen brothers score, Jeff Bridges shines, and a star is born.

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Among the several pleasures of the Coen brothers' True Grit, at least one—the perfect casting of Jeff Bridges as the cantankerous U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn—was to be expected. Another—a sharp comic turn by Matt Damon as a prissy Texas Ranger—is something of a surprise. And a third—a breakthrough star performance by 13-year-old Hailee Steinfeld—is an unexpected revelation.

Steinfeld, making her movie debut with the thinnest of thespian résumés—a few commercials and short films, a little TV—dominates the picture as Mattie Ross, a young girl in 1870s Arkansas determined to track down the outlaw who murdered her father and bring him to justice, or, preferably, to shoot him dead. Journeying to Fort Smith to recover her late father's effects—among them a very large pistol—she learns that his killer, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin, impeccably dim), has lit out for the nearby Choctaw Nation, a lawless precinct that draws all manner of fugitive rogues and rascals. Seeking assistance in her quest, Mattie is referred to Rooster Cogburn, a grumpy drunk of dubious ethics who has apprehended many an outlaw, but rarely brought one back alive. (Asked how many men he has killed in his four years as a marshal, the scroungy lawman says 12, maybe 15. Then, after a moment of muttering thought, "Well, 23.")

Mattie decides Rooster is "a man of true grit," and approaches him in the back of a Chinese grocery, where he's sleeping off his latest whiskey binge under a canopy of hanging smoked ducks and sausages. She offers him $50 to join her in pursuit of Chaney. (We've seen her pry this money out of a local horse dealer, hilariously, in an earlier scene.) Rooster demands $100 for the job. Mattie is indignant. "I'm givin' you the children's rate," he protests.

Soon, and much to their displeasure, Mattie and Rooster are joined by Damon's Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf, who's also on Chaney's trail for the murder of a state senator. In fact, he's been chasing Chaney for quite a while. "Why did you not catch him?" Mattie asks with frank contempt. "He is a crafty one," LaBeouf limply replies.

Like the 1969 True Grit, for which John Wayne, in the role of Rooster Cogburn, won his only Oscar, this new movie is based on an esteemed comic novel by Charles Portis. But the Coens' film isn't really a remake of that earlier picture; it's their characteristically singular take on the book, and more faithful to it (especially in its portrayal of Mattie and her ultimate fate). And the script they've fashioned from Portis' celebrated prose is a delight in itself, rich with contorted Victorian locutions. When Mattie attempts to comfort a wounded man after a gunfight, he tells her, with pained regret, "I am considerably diminished." When LaBeouf grows weary of Mattie's constant derision, he says, "You give out very little sugar with your pronouncements." And when Mattie, in Rooster's sudden absence, is briefly captured by an outlaw gang, she suffers a rare moment of despair: "He had abandoned me to a congress of louts."  

The picture is also graced with the visual resonance of the Coens' longtime cinematographer, Roger Deakins, who captures the sun-flooded mountains and starry nightscapes through which Mattie and her partners pass with eloquent style. (One opening scene—a shot of a dead body crumpled under falling snow, illuminated only by a nearby porch light—is a small master class in its own right.)

Bridges inhabits the role of Rooster Cogburn with grungy, potbellied èlan. ("I'd give three dollars right now for a pickled buffalo tongue," he bellows at one point.) And while Damon already confirmed his comic chops in last year's The Informant!, here he's both wilier and more self-deprecating—a man whose Ranger braggadocio is undermined by his constant, overreaching silliness. ("I have lapped filthy water from a hoof print.") But it's Steinfeld, holding her own in every scene with these seasoned stars, who lights up the movie. With her cutting sarcasm and fierce rectitude, she's the very picture of true grit herself. And when she saddles up in pursuit of the killer Chaney, with a spunky determination flashing in her eyes, you want to follow her wherever she goes.     

Kurt Loder is a writer, among other things, embedded in New York.

Editors Note: This article originally misidentified the time period where the movie is set.

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  1. At last a remake that doesn’t disgrace itself.

    1. It’s not a remake. It interprets the same source material.

      1. That’s open to interpretation.
        One would need to have read the book and seen both films to make the call.

        1. I’ve read several reviews – varying in their praise – that all confirm that the Coens’ film is more faithful to the novel than the 1968 verision. Personally, I look forward to seeing it.

          1. Classic film critic/historian “DVD Savant” Glenn Erickson had this to say:

            Just in passing, I did see True Grit last night, and it’s just fine, with Jeff Bridges & Matt Damon really good. It’s very much like the original Hathaway picture that won John Wayne an Oscar … with Bridges reinventing the character and an interesting take on the stubborn young girl determined to hunt down her father’s klller. All it’s lacking is a better music score (I haven’t heard one song repeated ad infinitum like this since On the Beach). Also bugging me a little is a joy-killer ending that probably follows the book faithfully but doesn’t leave us with a smile. People are calling it a comedy … which I think short-changes the movie.

            1. joy-killer ending that probably follows the book faithfully

              Probably? If he read the book, wouldn’t he know?

        2. Well I saw the first film when it was released and several times since, and I read the book a couple of years ago, so guess I’ll have to get around to seeing the latest film version eventually. When I read the novel though I was surprised how closely the first film had followed it. Only minor differences, the main one being that the ranger isn’t killed in the book.

    2. I saw a movie just like this with John Wayne.

      1. John Wayne was a fag.

        1. Takes one to know one. Faggot.

          1. You were! In installed 2-way mirrors in your house in Brentwood and you answered the door in a dress.

            1. John Wayne was a Nazi
              He liked to play SS
              Kept a picture of Adolph,
              Tucked in his cowboy vest
              Sure he would string up your mother
              Sure he would torture your pa
              Sure he would march you up to the wall
              Sure he would hang you by your last ball

              [Chorus:]
              He was a Nazi
              But not anymore
              He was a Nazi
              Life evens the score

            2. I’m distressed that not once but twice in this thread people have utterly failed to recognize a classic Repo Man quote. Emilio Estevez must be rolling in his grave.

              1. OMG!!! Emilio Estevez died?!!! When, man, when?! Geez, I can’t believe it – he was so young! OMG, such a loss, such a tragedy. It’s…it’s like the end of an era. Just so sad. (sniff)

                1. He’s not dead. Couldn’t very well make himself spin if he were dead now, could he?

              2. Kids these days. I tells ya.

        2. John Wayne was a fag.

          Duke!

          How many time do I have to tell you, John Wayne was “The Duke“!

          // I tell, ‘ya, some people are just slow on the uptake.

        3. That would be John Wayne Gacy, I think.

        4. You probably wouldn’t have said that to his face, JW.

    3. Ricardo Cortez was the ultimate Sam Spade.

      And I presume you’ve never seen What Price Hollywood either, or else you’d know the first remake didn’t disgrace itself. (The next two did, but that’s another story.)

  2. …a sharp comic turn by Matt Damon as a prissy Texas Ranger

    After his “comic” turn on Entourage, I am extremely skeptical.

    1. He just wants the fucking check, Vince!

    2. The Informant! was meaningless to you?

      1. Actually it factored heavily into my comment. The other six people who saw that movie likely agree.

        1. The other six people without a sense of humour? Perhaps another watch would help there.

          How does one correlate the movie’s popularity and the quality of Matt Damon’s performance?

          1. Oh, I ran right into that one …

    3. As is usually the case with these showbiz types, Damon’s funniest moments are the unintentional one’s when he playing himself and mouthing off about politics.

  3. “If I ever meet one of you Texicans who hasn’t drunk from a muddy hoofprint, I think I’ll shake his hand or buy him a Daniel Webster see-gar.”

    1. I can remember a time or two as a kid, hiking home a hot, dusty highway in July that I would have been sorely tempted by a mud puddle – if I could have found one.

  4. “True Grit’s the only movie I’ve really understood in years”
    Is there a prize for most obscure reference?

    Now if they could just remake Green Berets as a dark satire…

    1. Statler Brothers “Whatever happened to Randolph Scott”. They changed it to “Tombstone” in later versions.

      Maybe Bridges would play the Duke’s Green Berets character and they could get Steinfeld to butch it up and play Ham Chunk.

      1. My parents listened to the Statler Bros 25+ years ago and I still can’t exercise the songs from my head. The Oak Ridge Boys to. That music is the devil.

        1. The Statler Brothers? Does you chewing gum still lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight? 🙂

          1. Still play solitaire til dawn with a deck of fifty one? 🙂

            1. Smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo, now don’t tell me I’ve nothing to do.

              1. Kangaroo saved my ass in the Nam. Me and Greenjeans.

              2. Yeah, and there’s all that counting flowers on the wall to do, too – even if it doesn’t bother you at all. 😉

  5. And the script they’ve fashioned from Portis’ celebrated prose is a delight in itself, rich with contorted Victorian locutions[.]

    I can hardly restrain my body and soul in anticipation of listening to the Victorian locutions.

    1. Yeah, but they’ll be in a bad fake Southern accent.

    2. You Sir, should learn to delight in prandial jucundity!

  6. I’ve noticed that movie reviewers (at least the small sample I’ve encountered) never link to the movie web site. Granted, there isn’t usually much to see there, but it’s a link. There’s more info on the actor’s website. You could do a target=”_blank” to keep the viewer on the publication site.

    Just wondering. Doesn’t seem like it’d take much effort on this intertubes thingy.

    1. You’d think they’d link to Fandango using their affiliate account so you could buy tickets directly.

  7. This review just raises my anticipation for noon local time.

  8. Another useless article about who gives a shit. Let’s talk about dope man!

      1. Inhaling a million bong loads in a single bound, bitches!

  9. Fact is that Kim Darby did a fine job in the original, and had plenty of Victorian locutions too. I’m a Coen Bros. fan, so I will probably see it. However, there is no chance you will ever catch me in a theater during the “holidays”.

    1. Leading to her seminal role, the mom in Better Off Dead.

      1. “It has raisins in it. You like raisins.”

        1. Oscar-caliber acting.

        2. “This is pure snow! Do you have any idea what the street value of this mountain is?”

          1. That wasn’t acting. That was reality.

        3. I love that movie.

    2. Kim Darby reminds me more of Judy Garland than someone in 1890’s Arkansas.

      Which isn’t necessarily bad, mind. I enjoy being reminded of Judy Garland.

      But as grit goes…

      1. I always thought that was kind of the sly joke of the title. Everyone underestimated the young girl played by Darby, yet she was not intimidated, even by Rooster Cogburn. Still fighting back in the snake pit, with her arm broken.

        Which character had true grit ?

        1. Yeah, she was gritty. I liked the part where she set up Glen Campbell to get killed.

          1. Although I love the original movie, a man would have to have a heart of stone not to laugh aloud when Campbell gets his gourd bashed in.

            1. Just when you need that Texican, he’s dead.

              1. I ain’t dead just yet you bushwhacker.

      2. She…Judy Garland…was my mother.

  10. Every time Damon is in anything or even mentioned, I immediately think of Team America: World Police, the funniest and best thing that ever had anything to do with him.

    1. +1 “Matt Daaaammon”

      1. anyone else notice in “Good Will Hunting” Damon uses a libertarian argument against tyranny (inappropriately in my opinion) in court to defend his assault on local toughs but then later in the movie recommends “The People’s History of the United States” to Mork from Ork?

  11. Kurt, the book was set in 1873 and I would hardly call it a comic novel.

    1. Thanks for catching that, Ragnar. The movie, too, is indeed set in the 1870s.

      1. Kurt Loder uses AOL? I guess if the 90s had been half as good to me, I’d dig in my heels too.

        1. I guess if the 90s had been half as good to me

          Bets decade of my life!!!

          1. “Best”

  12. Cool. Now when will someone make the “Dog of the South” movie?

    1. Remake BEASTMASTER!!!

  13. Why are Loder’s movie reviews showcased here? It would make more sense if he occasionally wrote a libertarian-esque piece, but as it is they tend to be straight movie reviews, and not even of movies that have libertarian themes.

    1. Why not? I don’t mind an occasional break from political items. Judging by the number of comments on this thread, I don’t think I’m alone.

      Also, as far as reviewers go, I prefer his straightforward, descriptive style to those who believe their subjective pronouncements should be the arbiter of cinematic aesthetics.

      1. I agree that his movie reviews have a bit more substance than most. I was only saying why him? Is it for that very reason you stated or does he have libertarian leanings and that is why Reason contracted him?

        1. That, I can’t answer.

        2. Loder’s reviews seem to be straightforward, and he doesn’t appear to be in love with his own wit. His reviews are about the movie and not about him, which instantly make them better than anything out there in my book.

          Plus, he has decades of industry cred behind him.

          1. I’m partial to the Filthy Critic”. He is in love with his own wit, his reviews are distinctly about him … and they are better than anything out there in my book.

            Of course, I enjoy them more for the writing than for informing my movie choices. They are sort of the anti-review movie review. His description of Zhang Ziyi’s beauty in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is priceless…

            1. Plinkett is the only movie reviewer you need. And a lot of free time.

              1. He’s like a god of movie reviewing. Really, when your review is longer than the film, and people still watch the whole thing, you’re doing something right.

            2. I’m waiting for the Ask A Ninja review of the new Pirates of the Caribbean.

        3. Is it for that very reason you stated or does he have libertarian leanings and that is why Reason contracted him?

          He is a libertarian. It’s amusing that early ’90s MTV had both him and Kennedy on there at the same time, considering how libertarian both are. And how hot Kennedy is.

        4. That you, Anal Vanneman?

  14. “Comic novel” is an oversimplification, but it’s not a straight western either.

  15. It had better be good. If it isn’t, The Duke should rise from his grave and kick some asses.

    Now, if this were a remake of McQ, I could give half a shit.

    1. John Wayne was a fag.

      1. Prove it. With DNA. Taken from your hindquarters pardner.

        And he made several excellent movies, for their time, besides The Searchers. Red River, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Stagecoach, The Angel and The Badman.

        1. Am I the one person who thinks The Searchers is overrated? So many of the reviews praising it seem to do so solely on the grounds that it’s John Ford tackling a “socially relevant” subject.

          1. Am I the one person who thinks The Searchers is overrated?

            No. I don’t hate it, but I was expecting a lot more.

            Of course, I’m not a big J. Ford fan anyway, so I might not be the best judge.

          2. Most of the “great movies” appear overrated today because everything they did well was stolen by the movies that followed them. At the time the Searchers was made, nobody had used color, landscape, or framing, quite the way Ford had.

            After that, you see the techniques ripped off in mediocre movies like Silverado, which lessens the impact.

            It’s a rare film that’ll stand up to that. As a result, most of the films that are uncontested “timeless classics” hold up because of the plot and the performances, and not the film-making.

          3. I agree with Meiczyslaw below. It is a generational thing somewhat. We are so used to controversial subjects being treated routinely now. I am older than most here, I presume. My adult sons refused to watch many movies because they were not in color. but I forced them to enough that after a while they started to see what film is all about. Now, they can appreciate a Casablanca, a Thin Man movie, etc., and udnerstand the evolution of various genres.

            The Serachers is a great film in my view, but I can’t argue it is a perfect movie. I am quite willing to argue that point about several others.

            1. “…a perfect movie.”

              Hmm-Stalag 17 leaps immediately to mind. As does Dr. Strangelove and Mister Roberts. I’m with you on Casablanca as well, what about Dr. Zhivago?

              1. Perfect movie? “The Sand Pebbless” or maybe “Shawshank Redemption”

                1. The only misstep in “The Shawshank Redemption” is the scene where he plays classical music for the inmates and they are all enraptured. That felt forced to me-otherwise it was top notch.

                2. Big Trouble in Little China.

        2. Also, the lesser known Hondo, which gets high marks for following L’Amour’s book flawlessly, due to AB Guthrie’s work on the screenplay.

          1. Yeah, “Hondo” was one of Wayne’s better westerns, I think. His much later “The Cowboys” was probably one of his best of all time – the movie overall, I mean, not necessarily his performance.

        3. The correct response, of course, is “The hell he was!”

        4. The Angel and the Badman is one of my favorites. But I do love him with O’Hara.

    2. I know the “the duke” meant a lot to to the older generation here, and I understand that, but this isn’t a remake and it’s a fact that John Wayne was a terrible actor (if you can even call what he did acting at all). Just a big personality. I find most of his movies cheesy and unwatchable – with the exception perhaps of The Searchers. The reaction from the Wayne fans toward this movie has been sort of silly.

      1. “Fill your hands you sonofabitch!”

        1. “Truly this man was the son of God”

        2. That line has to be one of the great movie classics of all time – right up there with “frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” and “make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

          1. “Fill your hands…” I mean.

      2. Wayne’s persona was a big selling point, but I think he should get some credit for his acting. I agree that he is pretty cheesy in a lot of pictures, but I can’t imagine anyone else in his roles in “The Quiet Man” or “Rio Bravo”. “The Searchers” is great stuff, but it was hardly his only distinguished role.

        1. I think he showed he could act in a movie like Trouble Along the Way, which isn’t a western or war movie.

      3. I find most of his movies cheesy and unwatchable

        That’s because you are a fucking douchebag with no taste at all.

        The Duke should’ve won the Oscar for playing Sergeant Stryker in Sands Of Iwo Jima

        1. See, this is what I mean about Wayne fans. No need to be a dick. Oh and Tumblr? Really dude, tumblr? You must be a troll, right? Or the only mashup of an old redneck and a 14 year old scene girl on the planet?

      4. John Wayne would kick your ass if he were alive . . . he still might.

        1. I wouldn’t count on bein’ able to shade someone I didn’t know, fella.

  16. I’ll watch this version as long as Bridges doesn’t attempt the “fill your hands you sonofabitch!” line when he goes 1 on 4. That was all Duke

    1. I’m pretty sure it’s in there, but I don’t mind. I just wish they would have put in bit roles for the actors from the original who are still alive (I don’t know if Duvall would be interested, but him as the horse dealer in Ft. Smith would have been good).

      Nothing can match Duvall and Wayne riding down on each other, but I’m not looking to set this movie up for failure. I’m interested in seeing how the Coen brothers tell the same story-given their, rather unique, interpretations of other material.

    2. I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man.

  17. And a third?a breakthrough star performance by 13-year-old Hailee Steinfeld?is an unexpected revelation

    Oh shit, somebody call Chris Henson with MSNBC’s To Catch a Predator

    “I thought she was 18!”

    “Bullshit, the birthday cake says happy 13th, sucker!”

    Bunch of cockblockin’ pedophilephobes.

  18. The original True Grit is on TCM now.

    1. Yeah, I noticed. I was never really that into John Wayne’s westerns (though I like his WWII movies). I’m a Clint Eastwood man.

      1. Can’t go wrong with “Josey Wales” or any of the Spaghetti westerns. Wayne’s WWII stuff is OK-“They Were Expendable” and “The Longest Day”. I’m not much of a “Sands of Iwo Jima” fan myself.

        1. Don’t discount his first film, The Wake Of The Red Witch. Wayne was so fond of that film he named his production company Batjack, after his character’s employer.

    2. Just caught the end of it. Great flick.

      And I like both Eastwood and Wayne. Probably more of an Eastwood film fan, but the Duke had some great roles.

  19. Well Bridges may be good but on this role he is no John Wayne. And that idiot Matt Damon is in it. He can kiss the ass of every troop that is keeping his Marxist ass safe while he makes movies. He sucks.

  20. I saw it today and my review to a friend was much like Loder’s. Steinfeld was fantastic. Bridges his usual genius self. Both should get Oscar nods.
    Saw The Fighter too and also loved it. Christian Bale like I’ve never seen before. Captivating. He should also get an Oscar nod. See both. They are worth your time.

    1. I agree with you comment on THE FIGHTER. The best fricking film of the year from where I sat and I have seen all with the exception of “The King’s Speech” which I hope to see this weekend.

  21. I saw it today and this remake is a total disappointment. The film is a boring and lackluster remake. The original Wayne film was livelier, exciting, and had heart. The original also had a memorable great music score. I will admit that Deakins cinematography is right up there with Lucien Ballards of the Original. Overall a disappointing remake regardless of the ass kissing film critics that seem to worship the Coen Bros and Spielberg.

    1. It’s not a remake.

      1. Well if it isn’t a remake then you need to tell that to Wikipedia and some 250 critics across the country plus all the website which site it as a remake. But then again you just might know something we don’t.

        1. Well, just because a crowd of movie reviewers asserts something doesn’t make it true. Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon,” to take one example, had already been adapted for the screen twice before John Huston shot his famous 1941 film version, which, with its distinctive noir atmosphere and fidelity to Hammett’s dialogue, wouldn’t seem to qualify as a remake of either of the earlier pictures.

        2. You must have read other reviews then. It’s not a remake of the other film. It’s a film based on the same book. The adapted screenplay of 2010 did not have the one from 1969 as source material.

          I quote from Wikipedia:

          “Ahead of shooting, Ethan Coen said that the film would be a more faithful adaptation of the novel than the 1969 version.”

      2. I think that a lot of people may have gotten the idea that it’s a straight remake from the trailer (at least the one I saw). Every line and every scene in the trailer I saw matched the original film word for word, so I pegged it as a remake.

        I can’t assess how “true” either version is to the novel since I haven’t read it yet; I guess I’ll have to put it on my reading list.

        1. Well, how else would they attract John Wayne fans? 😉

          I must say I haven’t read the book myself, but I trust the Coen Brothers enough not to lie about what their source material is. Sure, they were probably inspired by the first movie to make one themselves, but a remake?

          Of all directors, would you see the Coen bros do a remake of a film? Most of their films are adapted from books or are original screenplays by themselves and the odd co-writer. Two exceptions I know of are their film The Ladykillers, which is based on an older comedy film, and Intolerable Cruelty which is adapted from a screenplay that was never filmed.

  22. Moncler is the most popular brand among mountaineers for its glorious history and refined craft. Especially, the Moncler Jackets

  23. ..remake ( ) tr.v. , -made ( ), -making , -makes . To make again or anew. n. ( ) The act of remaking. Something in remade form, especially a new version.

    1. He’s right, not a remake. And John Wayne was a racist!

    2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remake

      Gotta love those people who can’t take corrections.

  24. This is gettin’ re-goddam-diculous.

  25. Check out this review for ‘True Grit’. http://bit.ly/dFrGOe

  26. I would agree with Loder’s review except in its totality. Individual moments sizzled, but there was a lot of boring between the sizzle.

  27. You misspelled ?lan. It has an accute accent mark, not grave.

  28. You misspelled ?lan. It has an accute accent mark, not grave.

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