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February 13th, 2011


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01:20 pm - True Grit
I went to see the Coen brothers' True Grit yesterday. It's a great film, just the kind I like best. Although it would be nice to see a British film win a lot of Oscars I like this better than The King's Speech; it's more my sort of film. In my 'interests' field on livejournal I have put twin interests of 'tough guys' and 'tough girls' and that's what this film is all about.

I've never watched the 1969 version because I don't like John Wayne. Anyway, they say this is not a remake of that film but a reinterpretation of the original book. It stars two of my favourite actors: Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn and Matt Damon as Ranger LaBoeuf. The third key actor is 14 year old Hailee Steinfeld - I don't know if she's highly talented or if the Coens managed her performance very well, but she was excellent too.

The plot is that the girl's dad gets shot and the killer runs off to join a gang of outlaws in 'The Indian Territory' (now Oklahoma). She hires Cogburn to track him down and bring him in to the state lines, so he can be hung. LaBoeuf is also on his trail and all three kind of travel together and co-operate in pursuit of the bad guy. As the name of the film implies the key theme is the various ways that toughness is expressed - in particular emotional or psychological resilience. All three main characters are extraordinarily resilient, despite their various vanities and other flaws.

In Dune the Meaning of Life, god's purpose for people, is to 'to show what you are made of' by testing to destruction. There is always a mystical undercurrent to the Coen brothers' films, and while it is hidden in this film, I think there is a spiritual message within the film, about being-in-the-world. William Blake said 'The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom' and I think the road of excessive toughness and stubborn resilience is as legitimate a road to wisdom as any other.

I also like the portrayal of the affection between an old man, a young man, and an even younger girl. The relationship is not determined or dominated by any one of the three, and none of them are very easy to get along with. Matt Damon is brave, I think, to show a very complex - probably inappropriately sexual - interest in the girl, which turns into something healthier and more creditable to him as the film develops.

(8 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:tehomet
Date:February 13th, 2011 05:31 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the review. I can't wait to see it!
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From:communicator
Date:February 13th, 2011 05:36 pm (UTC)
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I really liked it. I like Westerns. Though I never read them... perhaps buy this one.
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From:hawkeye7
Date:February 13th, 2011 07:59 pm (UTC)
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I have seen the original many times. They say that they gave John Wayne an Oscar because he had cancer, and had a lung removed in 1964. Eventually he would succumb to it, but not for another decade. But he was very, very good.

The film follows the book, and is closer to the book than the original movie. The framing sequences are restored, and so are the biblical themes. I was quite amused by the "bible bashing" old biddy being confounded by an actual biblical reference, to Ezekial, which she has obviously neither heard nor read. However, this means that the story line is the same.

The new version is more faithful to the book, to its Oklahoma setting, and to historical accuracy. The book incorporated a lot of true tails, from different marshals. Those interested in the history can check out The Real Fort Smith: The Fact & Fiction Behind True Grit.

Yet, the new movie does not transcend the old. It too has great performances, in most cases better that the original. In particular, Hailee Steinfeld outperforms Kim Darby, because she is superb; and Matt Damon, although far below his best, is still much better than Glenn Campbell.

It is the Duke who casts the long shadow. The character of Rooster Cogburn remains John Wayne's interpretation. The hat, the eyepatch and other minor details all come from the original move, not the book. And at 61, Jeff Bridges is the same age as John Wayne was. So what we have is a great performance by Jeff Bridges as John Wayne playing Rooster Cogburn.

Edited at 2011-02-13 08:00 pm (UTC)
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From:communicator
Date:February 13th, 2011 09:48 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad you can give a perspective on the book and the other film, because I don't know them at all. Where I imagine the Jeff Bridges would be better than John Wayne is in portraying a drank, a degenerate, a dirty old man. I can't see Wayne really getting that aspect. But as I say, I'm speaking from ignorance.
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From:kalypso_v
Date:February 13th, 2011 11:43 pm (UTC)
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I am now freaking out at the thought of Jeff Bridges being 61. Why this should be more alarming than my brother being 61 in April I am not sure; possibly because I've had plenty of time to get used to my brother's advancing age.
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From:communicator
Date:February 14th, 2011 06:23 am (UTC)
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He looks every one of them in this
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From:cassielsander
Date:February 14th, 2011 05:02 pm (UTC)
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Glad to hear I'm not the only one to pick up on Matt Damon's "interest" in the girl. Seems to me she was kind of into him as well (though there's less wrong with that) but because of her mission, and because they got off on the wrong foot and never found the right one again, nothing came of it (and of course she comes to appreciate Rooster's gritty heroism over LeBoef's gallantry).

I also love that even in her idle fantasy at the end about running into LeBoef again she's still trying to put him in his place.
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From:communicator
Date:February 14th, 2011 06:43 pm (UTC)
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Yes, I think you are right. I think she was into him, and it was dealt with in a delicate sensible way. I must go back and see this again, there are so many things that have occurred to me since watching it.

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