Most girls like to play pretties, but you like guns do you?

Three things occurred to me while watching the Coen brother’s latest film, True Grit: 1) Hailee Steinfeld’s Best Supporting Actress nomination is pure silliness given that this is clearly her film, however, I’ll take a silly nomination over no nomination. 2) Jeff Bridges is, without a doubt, one of the finest actors of our time, and 3) No one can make the ordinarily insignificant seem like anything but quite like the Coen brothers.

Their film, which manages to hew more closely to the Charles Portis novel than the original 1969 version while still pulling dialog directly from said film, is a masterpiece in subtlety. I believe that this is why critics have often referred to it as a “lesser” Coen film, but it actually reminds me of two of their truly great ones: Fargo (1996) and No Country for Old Men (2007). Those films (and True Grit) are as comfortable with their humor as they are with their silences, both occasionally being interrupted by violence. To say that it is brilliantly made is almost redundant at this point.

The story concerns thirteen-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) seeking revenge for the murder of her father, who was gunned down by Tom Chaney, a hired hand and small time hood. She is smarter than most and certainly more determined, but the real genius of Miss Steinfeld’s performance is in her vulnerability. She speaks with great confidence, but there is always a hint of child-like insecurity in her eyes, even as she runs circles around a sales man in order to get the discounted horses she feels are owed to her.

Mattie needs this determination when dealing with Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a bounty hunter she chooses over others because of his purported grit (it’s pretty true, that grit), which comes in both figurative and literal form. Seriously, I’d imagine this fellow doesn’t exactly smell like a bed of roses. Jeff Bridges’ Cogburn is almost the antithesis of John Wayne’s. This Cogburn is dirty, gruff and clearly an alcoholic. I’m pretty sure Wayne wore a girdle. Bridges completely disappears into the role, while The Duke remains The Duke.

Along the way the two are alternately nagged and aided by LaBoeuf (“LaBeef,” Cogburn calls him), played by Matt Damon. He is a Texas Ranger who happens to be on Chaney’s tail for a few unrelated crimes and has no interest in helping Mattie, who he views as a petulant child (and awkwardly as a potential mate, for a spell).

The film is beautifully shot (cross your fingers for Roger Deakins, please). There are a great number of standout scenes, but one in particular sticks with me. Having been bitten by a rattlesnake, Mattie lays limp on the back of Cogburns horse. After the horse eventually buckles due to the strain of their race to get help, Cogburn scoops Mattie up in his arms and carries her the rest of the way. Upon finding it, he collapses to his knees and drops Mattie to the ground.

“I’m getting’ old.”

Say it brother.

True Grit is nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Jeff Bridges), Actress in a Supporting Role (Hailee Steinfeld), Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Directing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing & Best Adapted Screenplay

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3 Responses to “Most girls like to play pretties, but you like guns do you?”
  1. Lindsey says:

    That race for help was IN.TENSE. A little hard to watch because of that poor horse.
    And I agree: Hailee Steinfeld’s Best Supporting Actress nomination is pure silliness. It’s HER story, why on earth is it considered a supportive role? That’s just infuriating. She’s not even billed along with her co-stars on the poster. Crimes, I say, CRIMES!

    • Kevin Mattison says:

      The Academy rules state that if you’re nominated in more than one catagory you get the nod in the spot where you got the most votes. Unfortunately, Miss Steinfeld got more votes for best supporting. The bright side is I think she has a better chance of winning in that catagory. The competition’s a little too stiff for a newcomer in the best actress arena.

      As far as the poster goes, that’s simple marketing. Big names mean big bucks. That’s showbiz, sister.

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