True Grit. Incredible movie. The original came out in 1969, when I was 8 years old and ready for hero worship. Kim Darby’s strong, dignified, brave and idiosyncratic Mattie Ross fit the bill. I’ve just discovered that Kim has a website, and a big, adoring fan base, and well she should. A film starring such swaggeringly manly, hot, and gifted as John Wayne, Dennis Hopper, Robert Duvall and, yes, a sexy young Glen Campbell–that does not sound like a recipe for a movie crying out for a remake. You can see the original, by the way, Saturday night (Jan. 8) at 8:00 pm. Did you know that if you look a movie up on the IMDb site, marginal notes will tell you when the film is upcoming on TV? But I digress, as usual.
What I mean to say is, the Coen Brothers did it up right.
Monday night I went to True Grit with my dear friend Dan. Dan and I both love movies and observe similar “movie etiquette”. Talking is fine during the previews, but once the film starts we each enter our private experience of the film, and we don’t feel the need to talk much afterwards. We like to process. He is MY movie buddy. You can’t have him.
Anyway, from the first moment the Coens weave a world of violence and dust, opportunism and venality, cowardice, drunkenness; a dried up, sepia hell of tawdry vice. Against this dispirited, cynical world stands our young, stubbornly virtuous heroine, Mattie Ross. The mesmerizing tale unfolds in all its gritty–what else?–glory.
Young Hailee Steinfeld is a worthy successor to Darby in the role of Mattie. Jeff Bridges embodies Rooster Cogburn in a way that is wonderful to see. Matt Damon and Josh Brolin enter their characters so completely they scarcely look like themselves. The acting is so good that the casting of these big-name stars presents no obstacle to the suspension of disbelief that is, for me, key to total movie enjoyment.
The movie versions of True Grit are very well-known, but they are based on a splendid book by Charles Portis. Noir fiction master George Pelicanos discusses the enduring power of the book in this NPR interview. An excerpt of the book is included on the NPR page, so you can get a taste of Mattie’s unique, even quirky, voice. You don’t have to love Western fiction to love this novel. I hope you will read it if you haven’t yet.