Friday, January 7, 2011

New Release: True Grit

I have seen a fair number of Westerns and have no problems with the genre - like all others, some a good, some are bad.  Unlike with Rom/Coms, a bad Western is usually just boring, whereas bad Rom/Coms make you want to scratch your eyes out and find out who can give you the 90 minutes back.  Action flicks (which Westerns often are also) tend to err on the side of unbelievable when they turn down a bad road, but that's not usually a problem with Westerns as they take place before most technology is required for a chase scene.  Therefore, to be a good Western, you really need to focus on story (the simpler the better) and terrific acting - if you want to be considered a great Western.  And True Grit (even though it's a remake) is a great Western.
Mattie Ross (the up and coming Hailee Steinfeld) has arrived in town to clear up her father's business - finding his killer, known to be Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin).  She negotiates the sale of his ponies, threatening legal action, finds and hires Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to go out after Tom Chaney, and does it with braids in her hair and her hyper-articulate nature.   There's another man looking for Chaney, LaBoeuf (pronounced in the West, "La-BEEF", played by Matt Damon).  LaBoeuf is kind of bad-ass creepy, as opposed to Cogburn's bad-ass alcoholic, but they team up to go look for Chaney - and any other outlaws they can find.  Of course, dear Miss Mattie wants to come to and she's determined enough to be allowed to come with them.  See, it's a simple story.  They spend some time on horseback trying to chase Chaney down - they find other outlaws (an unrecognizable Barry Pepper), have a few shootouts, etc.  Traditional western.
However, it's the acting, score and cinematography that make this movie one of the best of the year.
Jeff Bridges won his Oscar last year for Crazy Heart, which I also loved, and he's really taken a leap with his acting.  It could easily be "The Dude does a Western", but it's not.  Yes, he's laid back and casual about his life, being focused on finding another drink, but Bridges is a good enough actor that he fully embodies the role and you don't get The Dude at all.  He walks differently, sits differently, and looks out of his one eye very differently.
Hailee Steinfeld is being compared to Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone), but the only real comparison is that they're about the same age, and have to do what they must to take care of their family.  Steinfeld's performance is nothing like Lawrence's.  Steinfeld has to articulate all of her problems - and she does it brilliantly (not sure if it's the Coen's direction, but probably!) while Lawrence emotes her problems without saying too much.
I was surprised by Matt Damon's performance too - he can come across too nice or too funny to be part of a Western and to be taken seriously.  However, even with the funny mustache he comes across as a perfect side-kick to Rooster Cogburn.  There were also some lines from the original movie that were really well done - "I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man".  Love it!.  5/5 star/lambs


David Bishop said...

I really liked this movie too, but I'm a pretty big fan of the Western genre. Even the bad ones are pretty fun to watch for me. Still, I think this movie was fantastically well done. It really captures the grittier side of the old West over the romance of it, and made me think a bit of Unforgiven in that way. I sort of want to read the novel now, but it will have to wait as I'm no rereading the Count of Monte Cristo.

Nick said...

Last paragraph... Matt Damon. Just sayin'.

David Bishop said...

Oh wow. I can't believe I missed that. My mind must have an auto-correct feature or something because I totally read Matt Damon the first time.

Jess said...

Thanks Nick! Weird typo, obviously I got it right the first time.

CMrok93 said...

"True Grit" succeeds because of the interplay among its three main characters. It can stand on its own and need not worry about being lost in the shadow of the original.

Fletch said...

What Cmrok93 said.

I don't know if I'd go so far as 5/5, but I had a hell of a time. A lot funnier than I would have anticipated given the events that unfold, but I suppose that's what the Coens bring to the table. Probably one of the funniest movies I saw in the last year, and one of the best-acted to boot.

Jess said...

CMRok93 - I agree, and that's what puts it above the original - their chemistry.

Fletch - They did a great job pulling the humor out of all the lines, balancing Mattie with Rooster and keeping LaBoeuf from getting creepy was perfect.

Jim said...

I can tell that this is the one of most awaited movies for me this month and i finally found it.I really like this kind of movies . thanks sharing