They Don't Make Tweens Like They Used To
Critics have accused the Coens of misanthropy, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s just that they never condescend to their characters; and nowhere is that more apparent than in True Grit, which ranks among their best. They closely adapted the script from the 1968 novel, retaining the hilariously formal dialogue.
Apparently, adolescents today are cut from a different fabric than they were in 1870s Arkansas. Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon are both fantastic (natch), but the real standout here is Hailee Steinfeld, the young actress who plays Mattie Ross, a vengeance-bent teenager. Her unmuddled intentions, stomach for violence and purity of heart put her in the same heroine class as none other than Marge Gunderson, the heroine of Fargo.
Mattie is remarkably well-equipped, physically and mentally, to deal with all the minutiae that goes along with having a murdered father. This is especially remarkable given that she’s only 14. And she’s so convincing that I just can’t accept the fact that, in real life, Steinfeld is an annoying, text-messaging middle schooler, and a child actress (ugh) to boot.
No, for me, Steinfeld will always be the breathtakingly confident little woman who informs the dissolute US Marshall Reuben Cogburn (Bridges) that he will be hunting down her father’s murderer.
Oh. And she’ll be joining him to ensure that the job is done according to specifications.
They are joined by a dandified Texas Ranger (Damon) also seeking the villain and the trio sets off on horseback through an austere and gorgeous landscape that couldn’t have come from anybody but the Coens.
There’s no sex and hardly an swearing in this movie, though a lot of bad guys (and a few horses) get shot to death. But the violence is far less gory than we’ve come to expect from the Coens. Maybe they’re getting soft in their old age. Or maybe they are just staying true to the intentions of the 1968 novel.
Regardless, True Grit is easily one of the most outstandingly realized movies that came out in 2010—funny, exciting, oddly lovable—and not seeing it would be a real mistake. Consider yourself forewarned.