True Grit (2010)

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin

Director: Coen Brothers
Released: 2010

Mood: If everyone underestimates you because of your age or size or gender or something equally stupid that has no relevance to a person’s worth and you want to watch a brilliant Western where everyone gets a chance to prove the haters wrong.

I don’t know why I never saw True Grit before now.

I haven’t seen the 1969 original because I was never into John Wayne – although now that I recently watched The War Wagon, I’m rethinking that stance. But not every Western fan has to like John F*cking Wayne, okay?! I’ll borrow Wayne’s True Grit off my dad, out of fairness to my invisible fans. Stay tuned. 

** Update: I’ve mended my ways, and am now a big fan of the original True Grit. **

Anyway! I put on the True Grit remake last night because I was in the mood for something darker and grittier than my recent James Garner bender. 

If you’ve seen True Grit, you’re probably like “WTF was she thinking?!” I didn’t know anything about it beforehand, I didn’t even read the DVD case (which was still in plastic from when I got it off Amazon… I have SO MANY GODDAMN WESTERNS, PEOPLE!).

Needless to say, I was shocked when it turned out to be so… cute! 

The uplifting awesomeness of True Grit is in no way a negative. If you’re not rooting for all three of the lead characters, there’s something wrong with you. 

The plot is pretty simple: 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) is out to avenge her father’s wrongful killing at the hands of Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). She hires deadbeat U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to hunt him down. They have an on-again, off-again partnership with Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) on the trail. 

It took about 30 seconds for me to decide that Mattie is now among my favourite Western women of all time. Steinfeld expertly plays this no-nonsense, headstrong busybody, holding her own in every scene among some seriously f*cking talented actors.

Mattie is a bit stiff in her proper grammar and logical approach to situations, especially next to Bridges’ Cogburn. She’s the Amy Santiago of the old West: sometimes annoying, but with as much sand as any of them. 

In one of the first scenes she’s relentlessly haggling over her deceased father’s horses and tack, not leaving any room for argument. Steinfeld was so scathingly quick-witted, there and throughout the film, I’m not surprised she won so many awards for this performance.

illustration of a fancy moustache

Speaking of winners, JEFF F*CKING BRIDGES. Whether he’s shouting through the walls of an outhouse, speaking in court, or ‘singing’ (mostly semi-melodic grunts), you can’t understand more than 30% of what he’s saying. Except in the scene where he gets Jabba the Hutt drunk, and you can only understand about 5%.

But it doesn’t even matter. He drops plenty of deadpan one-liners, including excellent burns on LaBoeuf (Matt Damon). Cogburn is the perfect odd couple counterpart for Mattie – as much as she’s sharp and clever, he’s a gruff buffoon. And somehow cocky about it.  

At first I thought LaBoeuf was going to be obnoxious and possibly lechy, based on his first scene with Mattie. Cogburn gives him shit through the entire movie, but you do see his sweet side. Probably my favourite scene is the cornbread-shooting fight. Stop everything and watch it right now. 

When we finally meet the mush-mouthed Chaney (Josh Brolin), and LaBoeuf is still grappling with his tongue injury while Cogburn is still incoherent, the entire male dialogue of True Grit becomes reminiscent of a Mel Brooks movie.  

Half way through the movie, my boyfriend was like, “we should probably be watching this with subtitles”.  

illustration of a fancy moustache

I thought the title was a reference to one of Mattie’s early speeches to Cogburn, about how she heard he has true grit. Also, all the people are covered in proper Western grime and filth, so they’re truly gritty. But it’s really that each character gets tested and has to show their true grit on the journey. 

True Grit has great storytelling and outstanding acting. It’s a satisfying movie in all categories, which shouldn’t surprise me but I can be EXTREMELY unobservant – I didn’t realize that this was a Coen Brothers movie or that I liked them until I looked up their filmography while writing this. O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Gambit, The Big Lebowski, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs… well shit, I’m apparently a huge fan. 

It’s one of the highest-grossing Westerns of all time, and that is so f*cking well deserved.

Also, there’s a random bear-dentist man (Ed Corbin) in the forest and he’s the best thing ever. Can we please have more eccentric trapper-looking characters in Westerns?

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