It is a mistake to look at Joel and Ethan Coen’s remake of True Grit as a corrective to Henry Hathaway’s 1969 version, the movie for which John Wayne won his only Oscar, writes reviewer Philip Martin in Friday’s MovieStyle section. It’s better to look at the Coen brothers’ version as simply a retelling of the Charles Portis novel, made without prejudice to Hathaway’s film.
The Coens keep faith with the novel — just as, to a point, Hathaway did. Both True Grit films rely heavily on Portis’ dialogue. Both relate, in a rather straightforward fashion, the story of 14-year-old Arkansan Mattie Ross (played this time by Hailee Steinfeld). She enlists the aid of Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a somewhat disreputable U.S. marshal, to go after the hired hand who murdered her father. They’re joined on their mission by a dandy-ish Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) who’s tracking the man for his own reasons.
The Coens have made what is essentially a family movie, albeit one informed by the revisionist ’70s Westerns. They’ve shifted the focus slightly away from Rooster Cogburn and onto the 14-year-old heroine. More importantly, the Coens have seized on the key to Portis’ story, which is that True Grit is a story told in the voice of the adult Mattie Ross, a spinster banker looking back on her precocious quest to avenge her father’s murder.
Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.
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