‘True Grit’ vs. ‘True Grit’

Hi I’m Sean Carroll and I love movies and anything that pretty much has to do with film; the stories, the actors, the directors, who’s writing the screenplays and what they all have to bring to the table. My hope for this semester is just to shine the light on why movies have so much meaning to me and maybe to you as well. This won’t be a review blog. I plan on talking about many different topics in the world of film.

So let’s jump in, here’s a list of movies I saw over winter break.

  • “The A-team”
  • “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”
  • “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”
  • “500 Days of Summer”
  • “No Country for Old Men”
  • “True Grit”

In the coming weeks I hope to address all of these movies in some shape or form. I want to talk about what genres they belong to and highlight some of people that had their hand in making some of these great pictures. I decided to go with “True Grit” this week because it highlights three things that make a great western movie; a simple story, deep characters, and awesome gunfights. Enjoy!

When an individual thinks about the western genre many things come to mind, like cowboys and Indians, bandits on the run, a lone gunman cleaning up a town of lowlifes, and John Wayne giving some heroic speech that makes a person proud to be an American. Don’t get me wrong, I believe John Wayne is one of the greatest actors to have walked this planet and has been in some of the best westerns known to man. What has always defined the Duke is his heroic attitude, the definition of what a man should be. That’s who he is in every role I’ve seen him in and that’s why people have enjoyed watching him so much over the years. My problem with him is that this was all he was as a character and I don’t think he could play anybody else. Many actors and actresses today play diverse roles, which is why I’m always interested in seeing who they are portraying. Naturally, when I heard that “True Grit” was being remade, I was very interested in seeing if this remake could be better then the 1969 classic. I can flat out tell you that it is.

Now this isn’t some ripoff of another Hollywood idea. Actually, the story comes from a novel of the same name published in 1968. The story is about Mattie Ross, a very mature fourteen year old girl, who goes after the man who murdered her father. She recruits Rooster Cogburn, an aged, one-eyed alcoholic U.S. Marshall to help her do it. One of the many gripes I have with the original is that John Wayne doesn’t really portray the description of Rooster very well. He was pretty old as an actor when he made this movie so that wasn’t a real misstep, but like I said before, any role he plays, he has that heroic attitude with him. So even when Rooster is supposed to be drunk, the audience doesn’t look at him in a way they might actually view a real drunk. This movie was known most famously because John Wayne won an academy award for his role as Rooster Cogburn. The only way I could see how was because the academy saw that his performance was just different enough than his previous roles, that he deserved the award more for this movie than say, his performance in the “The Quiet Man”.

Another grip was the actress who portrayed Mattie was older than her fourteen year old character, and her attitude didn’t seem to gel with the other characters. This made her seem really annoying instead of a headstrong fourteen year old on a mission that the audience should be rooting for. Fast forward to 2010, the Coen Brothers decide to do their own adaption trying to stay more true to the novel (Now if you don’t know who the Coen brothers are, don’t worry. I plan on going into more depth of who they are in the next blog. Just know that these guys are award winning directors so they know what they are doing). Hailee Steinfeld, who portrays Mattie this time around, is actually fourteen in real life and could not have given the character more justice. The actress is a girl portraying an adult-like fourteen year old, rather than a twenty-six year old trying to portray a fourteen year old who’s supposed to be acting like they are twenty. The dialogue is lot more enjoyable because its unusual that a fourteen year old would talk like that.

Jeff Bridges has been in many movies and for that matter many different roles, so by him playing a one eyed drunk, it was spot on, showing the depth of who Rooster truly was even though he was a drunk. It showed that there was a true hero underneath. A big difference was the ending in the new movie. I’m not going to give it away for those who haven’t seen it, but it was very solemn which really was the whole tone of the movie itself, rather than a more light hearted ending like the original version. Another thing that I noticed was, for whatever reason, (Maybe copyright issues or just out of humor from the Coen brothers) they decided to film scenes opposite of each other than in the original so Rooster’s eye patch is on the left side rather than the right side; also, when Mattie meets her father’s killer, Tom Chaney, he had a burn mark on his left cheek in the original, but it’s on the right in the new one.

I decided to only focus on Mattie and Rooster in this analysis because those were the two stand out characters of both movies, but the new version has a great supporting cast and everyone does a stand up job in their roles. Anyone who loves westerns as much as I do should definitely go see this movie, and if you are looking for more, below is a list of some other terrific westerns.

  • “Unforgiven”
  • “Open Range”
  • “A Fistful of Dollars”
  • “Mclintock”
  • “Rio Bravo”
  • “Quigley Down Under”
  • “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”
  • “The Quick and the Dead”