Saturday, April 02, 2011

True Grit

True Grit
2010 -- PG 13
Director: Ethan & Joel Coen
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin

 It is difficult to fathom anyone playing a role originally played by John Wayne, especially from one of his western or war films. Being a huge John Wayne fan it was with a lot of trepidation that I went to see the new Coen Brothers remake of the Wayne classic True Grit. "How," I wondered "can a couple of brothers who admittedly have made some fantastic dark comedy movies in the past (Fargo, Raising Arizona, O Brother Where Art Thou), possibly remake an iconic film like True Grit and expect it to be well received? The answer it would seem is that they stayed true to the original story, including much of the exact dialog. Jeff Bridges is cast in the role of the oft drunken and always cantankerous Rooster Cogburn and Matt Damon takes on the role of Texas Ranger La Boeuf, roles portrayed in the original by John Wayne and Glenn Campbell respectively. Apart from the wonderful cinematography, this film uses a wonderful musical score that is based solely on traditional Christian hymns such as "Leaning On The Everlasting Arms," "What A Friend We Have In Jesus," and "Hold To God's Unchanging Hands." The hymns are presented principally as orchestral pieces and provide the scenes with a musical theme that is understated so as to embellish and not to detract from the scene.
 Clearly though the Rooster Cogburn character could very well be the first movie role to provide the actor playing the part with an Oscar for both versions. John Wayne won his only Oscar playing Rooster in the original and Jeff Bridges could very easily win it for his portrayal of the same one-eyed lawman in this version.
 Other notable performances in this film include Josh Brolin who got top billing over Barry Pepper even though Pepper has more screen time. Both actors turn in wonderful performances in the respective roles of outlaws Tom Chaney (who Cogburn is after) and Lucky Ned Pepper. As far as the role of Mattie Ross, portrayed in the original by Kim Darby, new-comer Hailee Steinfeld makes the character every bit as insufferable as Darby's original portrayal.
 Bottom line is - go see this movie! True Grit is a throw-back to the days when movies were meant to be fun. This is how westerns were meant to be made!


True Grit ended up receiving ten Oscar nominations including Actor (Bridges), Supporting Actress (Steinfeld) and Film of the Year but alas it was a tough year and this incredible film came away with no wins.

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