True Grit is a chick flick wrapped in a western. Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin may be the higher-profile actors in this period piece, but it’s teenage newcomer Hailee Steinfeld who drives the plot and exhibits the “true grit” that the title refers to.
Steinfeld plays Mattie Ross, a stubborn young gal who’s determined to bring her father’s killer – the coward Tom Chaney (Brolin) – to justice. She hires a trigger-happy, drunken U.S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn (Bridges) to venture into Indian territory in pursuit of Chaney. Rooster is reluctant to take the job, especially when Mattie insists on tagging along. But the two ultimately form a mutual respect that belies their somewhat caustic exchanges in the face of grave danger.
The pair is shadowed, and sometimes joined in their pursuit by a stalwart Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (Damon) who wants to capture Chaney and return him to Texas to face justice for a different murder. Mattie, Rooster and LaBoeuf make for an interesting trio that could very well have starred in a very special episode of Little House on the Prairie if Laura Ingalls had to go after Pa’s killer. Just trying to put it all in perspective for ya.
John Wayne won an Oscar for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in the 1969 version of True Grit, so Bridges had some big shoes to fill. I haven’t seen the original, but I suspect that Bridges put his own special stamp on the role, as did Steinfeld and Damon (trivia note: country crooner Glen Campbell played LaBoeuf in the original). Both movies are based on a novel by Charles Portis. This newest version from the I-tend-to-love-em-or-hate-em Coen Brothers is said to be more faithful to the book’s original dialogue. That could explain why the movie took me a while to get into. The first half hour or so kind of lumbered along. But once I got into it, I was hooked and engrossed by this quiet drama punctuated by moments of sardonic wit, gun battles, and unlikely camaraderie.
The movie is very good, but it’s not for everyone. The action is pretty low key and the dialogue is sometimes challenging in its authenticity. So if you’re looking for high-octane adventure – and don’t particularly like westerns- then True Grit may not be your cup of tea. I, however, liked it a lot. I also really liked Little House and The Big Valley. 🙂