- Arts & Entertainment
- Health & Lifestyle
- Bits & Bytes
- Events calendar
True Grit by Charles Portis was originally published as a serial in The Saturday Evening Post in 1968. Portis’ story recounts the adventures of Mattie Ross, a 14 year old Arkansas farm girl and her quest to hunt down and ultimately kill Tom Cheney, the man who murdered her father. She is assisted in the enterprise by Rooster Cockburn, a middle-aged, drunken U.S. marshall with a rather brutal approach to justice, and Laboeuf, a handsome and undeniably arrogant Texas ranger.
This exciting tale of old testament justice proved so popular that in 1969 it was turned into a film featuring John Wayne as Cockburn, Kim Darby as Mattie and Glenn Campbell as Laboeuf. It was directed by Henry Hathaway and won John Wayne his first, and only, Oscar. This adaptation departs radically from the original source material. It was filmed in Colorado, while the original story took place in Arkansas and Oklahoma. Kim Darby, who was supposed to be playing Mattie at age 14, was actually 21 years old at the time of filming and Hathaway’s version had a triumphant ending, rather than the bitter sweet ending of the novel. The movie did not feature Rooster Cockburn’s death and was, generally speaking, a terrible adaptation.
It was not until 2010 that the Cohen brothers in their relentless drive to make excellent, albeit odd, movies, rescued True Grit and made a movie which is much closer to the spirit of Portis’ serialized novel than the one that Henry Hathaway had created 43 years previously. The Cohens built their movie around an actual teenage girl (the wonderfully talented Haily Steinfeld who plays Mattie in this new film is actually 15, and was 13 at the time of filming) and told the story from her perspective. They cast Jeff Bridges (The Big Labowski, Tron Legacy, The Contender, The Fisher King) as Rooster Cockburn, and Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting, The Informant, The Bourne Identity) as Laboeuf. Both of these actors are a refreshing, comedic change from the wooden, robotic performances of John Wayne and Glenn Campbell. Bridges plays Cockburn in such a way that we sympathize with him and acknowledge his decency even while recognizing that he has in fact killed other human beings, and Damon is able to make us distrust and dislike Laboeuf even though we see that he is a White Hat, one of the” good guys”, doling out punishment to amoral men who in many ways deserve to be punished.
This is an excellent film, entirely superior to the John Wayne ‘classic’ that preceded it and I highly recommend it.