My baby loves the Western movies, and a good one is hard to find these day. We saw one this week, and it’s excellent. Clyde and I remember seeing the original “True Grit” when it came out. Ah, 1969. (But that’s another story.) I think the original version of the movie is considered a classic mostly because John Wayne won his only Oscar for his role as Marshal Rooster Cogburn. [Insert confession—JW was never more than an okay cowboy in my book. He didn’t walk the walk, frankly. There’s a cowboy walk, and the Duke didn’t have it. But oh well. He was John Wayne.] By my standard, the ‘69 version was fair to middlin’. It was Rooster’s story. Rooster is an aging, cantankerous drunk who has maybe one more manhunt in him, doesn’t have much to lose, is still pretty good with a gun even if he only has one eye. He’s between jobs, so he hires out to find 14-year-old Mattie Ross’s father’s murderer. They are joined by a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf, and the story becomes a classic quest. While the original is a classic Western movie, the new version is so much more. For starters, it’s a Coen brothers film. [Insert another confession: I never miss a Coen brothers film.] But it’s not at all what you’ve come to expect from the Coens. Oh, yes, it’s smart and funny and peopled with wonderful characters, but it’s also a true Western—the brothers’ first.
“True Grit,” by Charles Portis, was serialized in The Saturday Evening Post and later revised as a novel and printed in book form in 1968. Unlike the original version, the new movie is faithful to the book. It’s Mattie’s story. She’s the one with true grit. It’s still a fairly simple story, still a quest, are the characters are complex—not a stereotype or predictable type in the bunch, not even the secondary characters. And it’s all about characters whose layers serve as the building blocks of the world they live in. Not that there isn’t plenty of action—lots of breath-stealing moments—but Jeff Bridges was born to play Cogburn, and it’s hard to believe that 13-year-old Hailee Steinfeld is new to the movie biz. Put them together with Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper, and you have one heck of a cast. Then there’s the superb script. The dialogue is true to the book and apparently reflective of the period. It’s rich, lively, colorful. It reminded me of HBO’s “Deadwood” but without the cussing. In many ways typically Coen, the end will surprise you, but that, too, is true to the book. Don’t wait for the DVD. “True Grit” is well worth the price of a movie ticket.
We’ve rented some DVD duds lately, but one I highly recommend is “Town,” with Ben Affleck—who does a passable Boston accent—Jeremy Renner, who sounds like he was born in Charlestown, and Jon Hamm, who gets away without trying to do the accent. His character is an outsider, and he’s, well, Jon Hamm. This is a cops-and-robbers story, but, again, complex characters, a gritty setting, and realistic action ( a believable car chase scene through the streets of the city—what a concept!) that make the story.
Talk movies with us. What have you seen lately? Don’t be afraid to point thumbs. Any Oscar predictions?
Just a few more days to get in on our Shower Of Books! We’re celebrating our road trip to our new WordPress location. Among the 18 or 19 autographed books showering the winner’s mailbox will be DEADLY INTENT and WAKING NIGHTMARE from Kylie Brant, three wonderful books from the Belle Books catalog, SEDUCING THE VAMPIRE, Lois Greiman’s ONE HOT MESS, DEADLY PROMISES, an anthology that includes stories by NYT bestsellers Cindy Gerard and Sherrilyn Kenyon, and three of my own most recent books. And more. A veritable deluge of good reading. Comment today. Comment over the weekend. Comment on Monda until Christie calls for the blindfold and plucks a name from the possibles bag. And bookmark us at this address. Who doesn’t long to fold back the top and ride the open highway with this bunch?
Happy reading in 2011!