Sunday, February 6, 2011

True Grit

 This film was also released in NZ on the same day as Wild Target. I saw it at Reading Cinemas here in Napier at the session, the first session of it's run!! Two films in one day...not bad going!!
 I like the Coen brothers and the films they make. They have a unique style and they are certainly among the top film makers whose films I eagerly await. I saw A Serious Man at the beginning of last year and hopefully as this blog progresses I'll get around to my thoughts about it.
 But to True Grit! The Coen's state that it isn't a re-make but seriously...of course it is. The original as you undoubtledly know starred the legendary John Wayne for which he won his only Oscar. For me this is a re-make and also a re-interpretation. It apparently follows Charles Portis's book more closely than the original John Wayne film. But if you have seen the original you will recognise so many of it's lines and scenes that to call the Coen's version anything but a re-make is somewhat laughable. But still, when it comes down to it the Coens aren't the first to re-make or re-interpret films that have been made previously are they??!
 Besides the changes from the original to it's modern version is it any good? For me yes, in so many ways it is the equal and better than the original. I love the original and I love John Wayne, but for me Jeff Bridges plays 'Rooster' Cogburn better than Wayne. He's grittier and also with a more carefree way about himself, booze, his job, and especially killing that Wayne didn't pull off. I put that down to sensibilities of the sixties and our more liberal views on screen violence. Wayne wasn't allowed to be so liberal with the character as Bridges.
 Kim Darby was outstanding as Mattie Ross and unbelievably after her success in the role never delivered on her potential as an actress and after True Grit faded into obscurity. Hopefully that fate doesn't transfer itself to Hailee Steinfeld, who, like Kim Darby, plays the precocious Mattie Ross outstandingly. She doesn't outshine Darby but nor is she outshone. A great young talent who filled a demading and legendry role superbly.
 I found Matt Damon somewhat out of place in a western and feel that Glen Campbell played the role to more effect in the original than Damon. It doesn't detract from the film but the character is vain and self seeking. Damon's Hollywood looks provide the character with the vain attribute but I felt he didn't have the 'attitude' as the character came across as being somewhat unsure of himself. This may be from the book, but I prefered the original film's characterisation as it felt more authentic, the clean cut, clean living opposite to the hard drinking, careless ways of Cogburn.
 Surprisingly, and unlike the original, and in only the way the Coen's can do, the film has some very funny moments . Not laugh out loud comedy but black, and the Coen's do black comedy very, very well. I saw this with about a half theatre full of people and I found that most laughed at the same dialogue etc as I did, so the humour was heard and responded to. Black humour is such an art and I find for most cinema goers it's an art that goes over their heads. I love black humour and here in True Grit the Coen's have yet again shown shown their mastery of it. 
 So, did I like this version of a classic western? Yes!..very much so. The cinematography, the acting, the script, the blacknes and yet subtle lightness to the humour and the uncompromising western violence make for an enjoyable film, which is nothing less than what I'd expect from the Coen's. I feel that this film will do well at the Academy Awards. Unfortunately Jeff Bridges won't win best actor for his role. I think it would be too much to see him win it when John Wayne won for the same role. A pity as I do feel Bridges is the better Cogburn. True Grit wasn't John Wayne's best role, that surely was in The Searchers, but the Oscars don't always reward actors/ actresses for their finest roles. Hailee Steinfeld? that may be a different story!
 Highly recommended.
 Click here for the New Zealand promotion site:

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