Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Reel Rhino has TRUE GRIT

...or so it would seem!

I have not seen the JOHN WAYNE classic that is the original TRUE GRIT. Nor have I read the classic American novel by Charles Portis that both films are based upon. The Coen Brothers both wrote the screenplay for this version as well as directed it, and while I intend to see the original soon, I cannot yet judge the two as a comparison.

All that being said, I think have seen just about everything the Coen Brothers have made and given their track record with me*, I went in feeling very confident I would enjoy this film.

(*I have liked everything except Burn After Reading, which has grown on me since my first viewing, even though I will always think that Pitt's performance was too self-admiring to truly be funny or impressive.)

True Grit has all the makings of an epic. Its Director of Photography was Roger Deakins (the Coens' staple DP) who has always given their films that extra touch of beauty, and his hand is evidence here as well. By those 'in the know,' it has been said that this film comes closer to achieving the settings that were described in the original work than the 1969 John Wayne classic. TRUE GRIT was first published as a serial in The Saturday Evening Post and it was then combined into the full-length novel. Much of the credit for this faithful translation certainly goes to Deakins' masterful eye.

The story here is simple. Fourteen year old Mattie Ross's father is gunned down in Fort Smith, Arkansas by a drunken worker of his own employ, for seemingly no good reason. The young Ms. Ross takes great issue with her father's death and especially the lack of official response into investigating the death.

Let me say first and foremost that Mattie is played with mastery by the young and fresh face of Hallie Steinfeld. I would not be surprised to see this young lady in strong consideration come awards season.

The worker in question, Tom Chaney, is played by Josh Brolin. It takes some length into the film before we meet Chaney, but Brolin performs far above par in the role of the slime-ball bandit, squaring off with dexterity against each of his adversaries when the time arises.

The real hero is Rooster Cogburn, played masterfully by THE DUDE himself, Jeff Bridges. I don't know how long it has been since there was a back to back acting win, but it is completely possible here! The Dude is a hesitant protagonist and while Mattie is shopping a bounty for Chaney's capture, she is presented Cogburn as the best candidate.

Texas Ranger La Boeuf is played by The Talented Mr. Matt Damon.  La Boeuf is a proud Ranger and while he makes mention of the reward for Chaney's capture relating to the murder of a Texas Senator, you get the feeling that his months on Chaney's trail has resulted in a mission of determination rather than monetary reward. 

These three form the unlikeliest of a hunting party, one out for vengeance, one out for pride, and one out for money. This film does feature the big Hollywood names that the Coens have the cheese to bring in, but this film does seem to push each of these actors into new territory.

There is not much I can say about True Grit except that I enjoyed the look and feel of the film, and while I liked the film a great deal, I loved the acting a great deal more.

Bridges owns Cogburn, Damon adds just the right comic sensibility to his La Boeuf, and Steinfeld comes across as delivering excellent stage speech, which is a perfect fit for the proper talk of the time represented here.

Speaking of comic sensibility, this film does have a bit more of a comic feel in both delivery of lines and editing, of which the Coen brothers were responsible for both (the Coen's acted as the film's editors under a pseudonym!). The Coens have always been able to delivery a spot on black comedy. While I really enjoyed the comedy, it wasn't so black as their previous efforts. They did add wit to what would have otherwise been a run-of-the-mill albeit well-acted mid-range blockbuster. These guys all have film chops which is why even when you may not be blown away, you still stand impressed.

I give TRUE GRIT a 4 of 5 horns...REEL RHINO has spoken. I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday! I was travelling and like I have done many times in the past, this review was started on Thursday evening. It was written bit by bit, each night, including one particular evening when I had perhaps one cup too many of the spiked eggnog. That's night's writing, while interesting and much misspelled, mostly was deleted.

Don't Drink and Drive...

Don't Drink and Text...

and now I guess, Don't Drink and Blog!

Happy Holidays and I will keep on posting into the new year....Black Swan and The King's Speech are up this week....

Take care!
The Reel Rhino

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