Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!

I saw the new release of True Grit on Sunday. I've been anticipating this movie since I saw the preview for it this summer. The 1969 version with John Wayne, Glen Campbell, and Kim Darby is one of my favorite movies. If it's not the favorite, it's at least in my top five. The movie is memorable for many things: John Wayne's only Oscar, Kim Darby's breakout role (although it never flourished after that), and early performances by Dennis Hopper as Moon and Robert Duvall as Ned Pepper. The movie also featured uncredited performances by Wilford Brimley and Jay Silverheels.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the remake, but it's a Coen brothers movie, which is always a good sign. It also features Jeff Bridges, the Dude (or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing) as Rooster Cogburn. I'm a big Jeff Bridges fan and he did a great job in the role. I wasn't too sure about Matt Damon as LaBoeuf, but he was good in the role. The LeBoeuf character in the new version is the biggest departure from the 1969 version.

The biggest uncertainty was about Mattie Ross. Kim Darby gained a great deal of recognition for her acting in that role. Although 24 at the time, her small size and slender frame made her pass well enough for a 14-year old girl. That fact that she was an adult herself, contributed to her ability to portray Mattie's precociousness when dealing with, and getting the best of, her elders. Hailee Steinfeld, who is actually 14, plays Mattie in the new version. She is brilliant. She has put her stamp on the role.

The Coen brothers' remake is said to have followed the novel by Charles Portis more closely than the original. I'm eager to read the book to see for myself—but it's not available for the Nook yet! There are noticeable differences between the two versions, but it's endearing, too, to see how much alike they are in many respects. Much of the more memorable dialogue in the 1969 version is repeated in the 2010 version, which means either that the Coen brothers kept it from Marguerite Robert's 1969 screenplay or that the dialogue comes from the book. In either case, any remake would be the poorer without the climactic exchange between Rooster Cogburn and "Lucky" Ned Pepper as well as other lines and exchanges between the characters.

One interesting homage in the movie is the hymn "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms". The tune plays at times through the movie and the hymn is sung by Iris Dement during the ending credits. The only other western that Jeff Bridges has done, as far as I know, is Wild Bill, where "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" is also sung at the movie's end (with the chorus variation "Leaning on Jesus").

As I watched the movie, I unconsciously ticked off every favorite quote from the 1969 version that was retained, in some form, in the 2010 version, but not everything got in. Here are a few favorites that didn't make it:

Rooster Cogburn: By God. She reminds me of me.
LaBoeuf: Well, then we might just not get along.

Mattie Ross: I won't rest until Tom Chaney's barking in hell.

Mattie Ross: Those horses can't get away from Little Blackie - they're loaded down with fat men and iron.

Rooster Cogburn: When's the last time you saw Ned Pepper?
Emmett Quincy: I don't remember any Ned Pepper.
Rooster Cogburn: Short feisty fella, nervous and quick, got a messed-up lower lip.
Emmett Quincy: That don't bring nobody to mind. A funny lip?
Rooster Cogburn: Wasn't always like that, I shot him in it.
Emmett Quincy: In the lower lip? What was you aiming at?
Rooster Cogburn: His upper lip.

Tom Chaney: What are you doin'?
Mattie Ross: I'm getting some water so I can wash my hands.
Tom Chaney: A little smut won't hurt you.
Mattie Ross: That's true - or else you and your chums would surely be dead.

Rooster Cogburn: You can't serve papers on a rat, baby sister. You gotta kill him or let him be.

Mattie Ross: Why do you keep that one chamber empty?
Rooster Cogburn: So I won't shoot my foot off.

Mattie Ross: Do you know a Marshal Rooster Cogburn?
Col. G. Stonehill: Most people around here have heard of Rooster Cogburn and some people live to regret it. I would not be surprised to learn that he's a relative of yours.

LaBoeuf: I wouldn't count too much on bein' able to shade somebody I didn't know, fella.
Rooster Cogburn: I ain't never seen nobody from Texas I couldn't shade.

Rooster Cogburn: LaBoeuf, you get cross ways of me and you'll think a thousand of brick have fell on you! You'll wish you was back at the Alamo with Travis!

Rooster Cogburn: Baby sister, I was born game and I intend to go out that way.

Rooster Cogburn: Any man who packs a big bore Sharps carbine could come in mighty handy, if we're attacked by buffalo... or elephants.

The new True Grit is a great film in its own right and I recommend it for any westerns fan or anyone looking for a good adventure film.


  1. I am looking forward to seeing this.

  2. I probably wouldn't have bothered with this as the original (and sequel) are two of my all time favs (and I'm not great JW fan), but your review means I'll bury my prejudices and give it a go when it's released in old blighty!