The Real Deal 

The Coen brothers have mastered yet another movie genre with 'True Grit'

The mighty brothers Coen take their masterful talents to the Old West for a bravura remake of True Grit. Jeff Bridges wears the eye patch in place of John Wayne as the iconic U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn—and it's one of the most beautiful bits of casting you will witness in modern cinema.

As good as Bridges is in the role—delivering every line with a weary yet somehow endearing mumble—he is matched every step of the way by 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld, my pick for the year's best supporting actress. As Mattie Ross, the whip-smart young woman who hires Cogburn to find Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), the man who killed her father, Steinfeld is nothing short of miraculous.

When Rooster and Mattie set out on the trail of Chaney, they are joined by Texas lawman LeBoeuf (Matt Damon). While the film certainly is no comedy, Damon gets a lot of laughs as the tagalong who talks too much and leaves the party more than once due to Cogburn's stubbornness and Mattie's mental superiority. LeBoeuf's verbal rivalry with Cogburn is made all the more hilarious by Mattie's tendency to be the only one in camp who acts like an adult.

As good as the Coens are at presenting a distinctive Wild West, this story wouldn't work if the central performances from Bridges and Steinfeld didn't gel. Luckily, they exchange lines like two people who have shared the screen 100 times before.

Some of the film's greater passages occur early on, as the two are getting to know each other. Watching Bridges' Cogburn react with quizzical stares as Mattie continuously outsmarts him is a testament to how giving and wonderful of an actor Bridges truly is. You sense that the man knows he is witnessing lighting in a bottle with Steinfeld—and he's loving it.

Chaney shows up late in the film, and Brolin plays him as a comically sad, always-complaining simpleton. He's the sort of character who has you laughing hard at one moment and terrified the next. Brolin makes Chaney's apparent sadness almost charming, making it all the more shocking when he shifts into bad-guy mode.

Barry Pepper is also menacing as Lucky Ned Pepper, the frothing-at-the-mouth leader of a band of outlaws.

The Coens clearly relish the opportunity to play in a new sandbox. Their take on the Charles Portis novel is dark, laced with gnarly tree branches, bad teeth, heavy whiskey-drinking and lots of killing. Yet the whole deal is oddly beautiful, thanks to the work of their performers, tremendous camerawork by old standby Roger Deakins and a stirring soundtrack from the criminally underrated Carter Burwell.

The film is full of trademark Coen-brother eccentric touches. There's a wonderful interlude when Rooster and Mattie cross paths with the Bear Man (Ed Corbin), a wandering dental technician who is more than a little dramatic as he talks about the trade he just made for a dead body. The public hanging of three men plays out in a way that could've only been directed by the Coens.

So, yeah, the Coen brothers have done it again, taking over another genre and making it their own. I've said it before, and I will say it again: I have never met a Coen brothers film that I didn't like. True Grit is another milestone in their amazing careers, as well as a showcase for an up-and-coming star and some of the industry's finest actors.

It's almost insulting to call it a remake. While John Wayne's portrayal of Cogburn may've netted him an Oscar, Bridges is the real Rooster—and Steinfeld is the real deal.

True Grit
Rated PG-13 · 110 minutes · 2010
Official Site: www.truegritmovie.com
Director: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Producer: Scott Rudin, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Steven Spielberg, Robert Graf, David Ellison, Paul Schwake and Megan Ellison
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, Hailee Steinfeld, Dakin Matthews, Jarlath Conroy, Paul Rae, Elizabeth Marvel, Roy Lee Jones, Ed Corbin, Leon Russom, Bruce Green, Candyce Hinkle and Peter Leung


More by Bob Grimm

  • Steal Away: Triple Frontier

    While it may not have a lot of surprises, this film will quench your thirst for a decent action-adventure flick
    • Mar 21, 2019
  • Star Bores: Captain Marvel

    While not completely devoid of fun, it doesn’t live up to other Marvel Universe flicks
    • Mar 14, 2019
  • Mommy Fearest: Greta

    A fresh spin on the ol’ stalker canon
    • Mar 7, 2019
  • More »


Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Ghosts of Christmas

    Charles Dickens wrestles with the spirits of the season
    • Nov 30, 2017
  • No Wonder

    Justice League is a big step back for the DC movie universe
    • Nov 23, 2017

What others are saying (10)

Colorado Springs Independent Opening this week TRON, How Do You Know, even some True Grit showings 12/16/2010
Colorado Springs Independent The magnificent two: True Grit The Coen brothers have subtly crafted what may be their most deeply felt movie yet. by Scott Renshaw 12/23/2010
Colorado Springs Independent Opening this week The three movies we've reviewed, plus Gulliver's Travels with Jack Black. 12/23/2010
7 more reviews...
Memphis Flyer Grit Light The Coen Brothers take the easy road in the agreeable but uncertain True Grit. by Chris Herrington 12/23/2010
Boise Weekly The Projector Spend Christmas Eve with Stiller, DeNiro, Firth, Black, Bridges and Matt Damon 12/24/2010
East Bay Express The Dude, Not the Duke: True Grit and Casino Jack The bad guys in one use guns; in the other, they use senators and congresspersons. by Kelly Vance 12/22/2010
Boise Weekly The Nitty Gritty of True Grit Nothing says "I love you" quite like a young daughter seeking revenge against the man who murdered her father. by Lizzy Duffy 06/08/2011
Chicago Reader Truer Grit The Coens reclaim Charles Portis's comic novel for its teenage heroine. by J.R. Jones 12/23/2010
Charleston City Paper The Coen Brothers' True Grit is only a little gritty It is quite possible that True Grit is the most heartwarming film the Coen Brothers have ever written, directed, and produced. And I'm still not quite sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. At its most basic, the film's themes are Hollywood standards we've seen before and will see again: A young girl needs to prove herself amongst older, wiser men. An old curmudgeon and the too-smart-for-her-own-good tween learn to respect each other over the course of a dangerous adventure. And it's all set to a schmaltzy score. by Susan Cohen 12/22/2010
The Coast Halifax True entertainment A solid cast and script make True Grit a Coen brothers classic. by Matt Semansky 12/23/2010

Latest in Cinema Feature

  • Steal Away: Triple Frontier

    While it may not have a lot of surprises, this film will quench your thirst for a decent action-adventure flick
    • Mar 21, 2019
  • Reel Indie

    When and where to see indie film in Tucson this week.
    • Mar 21, 2019
  • More »

Facebook Activity

© 2019 Tucson Weekly | 7225 Mona Lisa Rd. Ste. 125, Tucson AZ 85741 | (520) 797-4384 | Powered by Foundation