True Grit Review

True Grit: Jeff Bridges & Hailee Seinfeld
SacramentoMarko asked me to review the new True Grit since I saw it last week at a preview showing. Because it doesn't open until Wednesday and I've still got a headstart, I figured, "why not?"

If you've missed the trailers on TV, this remake stars Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn, Matt Damon in the Glen Campbell role of the Texas Ranger, and Hailee Steinfeld in the Kim Darby role. Steinfeld is a newbie for me, I haven't seen her in anything before this. She does an excellent job, though, in being the feisty 14 year old out to avenge her father's murder. James Brolin also makes a brief appearance as the killer, Chaney. Both Bridges and Steinfeld have been nominated by the Screen Actors Guild for their fine performances.

This film is written and directed by the Coen brothers. I happen to love their movies and this one is no exception. My favorite part of it (and all their movies, actually) is the dialogue. They are so gifted with words and in this film they are using words and phrasing like they would have during that period. In some cases it takes a bit to make the mental translation to today's terms. I'll be shocked if they don't get nominated for an Oscar for screenwriting.
I was only unhappy with the casting of Damon. I didn't think he fit the Ranger part very well and so his character was unbelievable to me.
The set design is very well done giving you a true impression of how such a pioneer town would have been. This carries through to the costumes and details of the characters as well. I won't be specific, but outlaw Ned Pepper (played by Barry Pepper coincidentally) really makes you aware of how filthy folks lived back then.
I had taken my friend to see the preview because he is a lover of Westerns. Last night he told me he rewatched the original version with John Wayne and said that they are both good in their own rights and can defy comparisons. He also shared a couple more facts.
  • The Coen version is truer to the book.
  • Both versions try to use the old language, but the Coen version is much more ambitious and successful at it.
  • Bridges and Wayne wear the eye patch on opposite eyes. Apparently Wayne chose the left eye as an homage for director John Ford.
Considering the competition for your holiday movie dollar, I would say you have a safe bet with True Grit. It has everything going for it: great story, acting, dialogue, and scenery.