There was a time when Joel and Ethan Coen, so rightfully highly regarded for their original screenplays and films, found their impeccable track record muddied by a brief rash of remakes and story adaptations. While this one-two punch of “Intolerable Cruelty” and “The Ladykillers” did them no favors roughly a decade ago, the triumph of their 2006 Cormac McCarthy adaptation and Oscar winner “No Country for Old Men” seemed to clarify that the primary fault of the former films may’ve been that they aren’t Westerns. (Yes, I’m one of those who consider “No Country…” a Western, if only perhaps a fringe one. Let’s go with “neo-western/noir”.) Taking any such lesson as that to heart, the Coen brothers are back, this time with an even higher-profile Western adaptation, “True Grit”…read more [TwichFilm]
Some people come of age. Others have adulthood thrust upon them. Within hours of arriving at Ft. Smith, Arkansas to retrieve her murdered father, 14-year-old Mattie Ross (played crisply and unsmilingly by newcomer Hailee Steinfeld) has paid the undertaker and seen three men hanged. Her troubles have barely begun. True, she could simply turn around and go back home. But she’s determined to see her father’s killer (Josh Brolin) brought to justice, which means enlisting the help of the meanest Federal Marshal money can buy, a one-eyed frontier veteran named Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), who’s happy to pull a cork or a trigger, happier still to say as few words as possible while doing so, and prone to few gentle sentiments when he does talk. He’s the perfect guide, in other words, for the hard country into which her nemesis has disappeared…read more [A.V.Club]
Early on in Joel and Ethan Coen’s True Grit, the second movie to be made from Charles Portis’ 1968 novel of the same name, there’s a short but crucial scene that sets the tone of the rest of this meditative (which, as we all know, is a polite way of saying “slow and talky”) western. In it, a precocious 14-year-old girl named Mattie Ross (TV actress Hailee Steinfeld in an impressive feature film debut) walks into a small office in the frontier town of Fort Smith, Arkansas, to resolve a business matter with its occupant, a local trader. A few days prior, her father, Frank Ross, made the trip to Fort Smith with his hired hand Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) to return some ponies he had purchased from this man. While in town, the two got into an argument over money, which ended with Chaney shooting Ross and fleeing into Indian country. Now, Mattie has arrived to collect her dad’s body and settle his affairs, including the return of the ponies…read more [FilmJournal]
The original True Grit might have been eclipsed by John Wayne’s larger-than-life persona, but the Coen brothers’ remake is an ensemble piece that feels freshly their own.
Joel and Ethan Coen have pulled off an impressive feat: repurposing a classic film with their idiosyncratic blend of dark, deadpan humor and palpable suspense, while remaining ultra-faithful to the novel. In fact, their elegant version, with its distinctively formal dialogue, hews more closely to Charles Portis’ book than the 1969 film.
Three stellar performances are at the epicenter of this western tale: Jeff Bridges takes the Wayne role as the grizzled, eye-patched U.S. Marshal Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn. Hailee Steinfeld plays spunky 14-year-old Mattie Ross, who is on a quest to avenge her father’s murder. Matt Damon is the clownish Texas Ranger known only as Mr. LaBeouf ( pronounced LeBeef). The two men have a wonderfully quirky chemistry with Steinfeld, a talented newcomer…read more [USA Today]
“True Grit,” one of the most entertaining American novels of the last 50 years, came out in 1968. One year later, Hollywood set out to subvert it.
U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn, the bushwhacking alcoholic without a friend in the world, was tailored to fit John Wayne’s more heroic frame.
Fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross, the Arkansan who hires him to catch her father’s killer, was played by 21-year-old Kim Darby. LaBoeuf, a laconic Texas Ranger chasing that killer for another crime, was embodied by callow Glen Campbell.
Those of us who admire Charles Portis’ novel have waited 40 years for a screen version that’s as literal as possible – and the Coen brothers just about deliver it.
Most of the good lines in this truer “Grit” come from the novel – maybe all of them do – and the few missteps come from the Coens’ attempts to make the book funnier or keep the narrative more in line with a traditional movie archetype.
Jeff Bridges’ Rooster, more amoral and bluntly selfish than Wayne’s, really seems like someone who might kill an unsuspecting outlaw and frame the shooting as “self-defense.”…read more [CharlotteObserver.com]
This is Bridges’s first film with the Coens since he played The Dude in The Big Lebowski (1998) – his own iconic role. It strikes me that John Goodman, his co-star in that comedy, might’ve made an even better Cogburn, but he’d also have invited greater comparisons to Wayne. As it is, Bridges’s unflappable Rooster is more Dude than Duke.
There are other aspects of the movie that have a distinctive Coen flavour. An early scene involving the hanging of three men in Fort Smith employs some literal gallows humour of the kind we’d expect from the duo. Then there’s that quirky interlude with the bearskin doctor (Ed Corbin), which is a morsel of pure Coenesque eccentricity. Their reverence for movie genres is also on display, particularly in the John Ford-style open-range cinematography of their regular lensman, the superb Roger Deakins. We get plenty of vast, snow-glazed landscapes and country night skies peppered with stars.
The Coens can be wonderfully original, but they’re also fine interpreters of other people’s work. True Grit might not rank near the top of their long list of films, but it does do Portis’s novel proud. And that, I’m sure, was their main intention…read more [CBC.ca]
As remarkable as the great outdoors are, it is this play with language, richly delivered by Bridges, Damon and Steinfeld, that is the star of the show in True Grit. Apart from being very funny, there is a musicality to the mannered, olde tyme talk. Steinfeld in particular delivers paragraphs of speech replete with SAT words, Latin phrases and sharp entendres. Not since Tom Hanks’s G.H. Dorr, PhD, from the underappreciated The Ladykillers have the Coens’ love of verbiage found such a worthy delivery method.
The tagline of True Grit, such that there is one, is “Punishment Comes One Way or Another.” It is this aspect of inevitablility that enables the Coens divert such precise focus to “their part of the sandbox,” to paraphrase from their No Country For Old Men Oscar speech. The basic story of True Grit has been handed down through generations of frontiersmen – a paegant ready for a performance by virtuosi…read more [UGO]
People who love Charles Portis’ 1967 novel True Grit — and you will know them when you meet them, even if they do not wear an eyepatch and do not forego the modern convenience known as the contraction — love it with a fierceness that shouldn’t be crossed. Joel and Ethan Coen must have known what they were getting themselves into when they set out to adapt it. If they’d failed to capture the tone and flavor of the book, or messed with too many of its roughhewn details, the mark of shame upon them would be too great to bear.
But even if their True Grit isn’t the greatest imaginable adaptation of this great little book, it’s at least a damn good one. The story is set in eighteen-seventy-something. Fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) has left her home in Arkansas to trek into Indian Territory, vowing to avenge the death of her father at the hands of a drunken no-gooder. The movie opens with a voiceover from Mattie — the grown Mattie, looking back over many years — and a vignette in which a dead man’s body lies slumped among drifting snowflakes, an American Gothic snow globe. (The cinematographer is Roger Deakins. Who else?)…read more [MovieLine]
True Grit Movie Info
Running time: 128 minutes
Rated: PG-13 for some intense sequences of violence
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Josh Brolin
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Studio: Universal Studios
Official Movie Web Site: www.truegritmovie.com
Opens: Friday, Dec. 24, 2010.
True Grit Video Review