Genre: Drama, Western
Country: United States
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, Bruce Green
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Coen Brothers
Run time: 110 minutes
Related reviews: True Grit (1969)
The new True Grit, as done by the Coen Brothers, IS better than the original. In my recent review of the 1969 movie, I pointed out why it isn’t really as good as people think it is. And those problems have been addressed in 2010. Hailee Steinfeld, who plays little Mattie Ross, is vastly superior to Kim Darby in the original. In that she’s far less irritating and I wasn’t rooting for her to be shot. That being said, she isn’t quite Best Supporting Actress worthy, as far as I’m concerned.
Jeff Bridges is up for Best Actor – in the same role for which John Wayne won his only Oscar 42 years ago. Wayne didn’t deserve that one then, Bridges doesn’t now. It’s just not a role that requires a nuanced performance. Rooster Cogburn is a sloppy drunk with a good heart and a hair trigger, and that’s about it. Bridges is very good, as was Wayne, but they have both had far better performances in other films. Where was Bridges’ Oscar love for The Big Lebowski? Sacrilege!
And then there’s the Best Picture nom. Deserving of a nomination, perhaps, but not a win. The Coens have done some superior work in their time, and No Country For Old Men was a deserving win, no question. But they too have done much better work than True Grit. Fargo, for example, came before the Coens had made a big name for themselves, and therefore lost out on Best Picture. And while I’m at it, where was the love for The Big Lebowski? Sacrilege!
Some of the best elements of the original movie are kept in place. I would have been keenly disappointed if I didn’t hear “fill your hands, you sonofabitch!”, or if Rooster hadn’t fallen off his horse dead drunk. The sweeping vistas and staggering camera work here actually exceed the success of the original, and if Roger Deakins doesn’t win an Oscar for cinematography, I will be very upset. He is doubtless the most deserving candidate this year.
The Coen Brothers’ True Grit is more than just an amazing looking movie with some good performances. It’s a reminder of how westerns used to be, and used to look, before spaghetti westerns clouded the line permanently between good guy and bad guy, and then the genre quickly died out under the weight of some pretty poor ideas and Kevin Costner in the 70s and 80s. The 2010 edition of True Grit feels like a 60s western, and yet still works today. And that’s good enough for me. Just not good enough for Best Picture.