I admit I never saw the original, but with apologies to The Duke, I can't imagine the 1969 True Grit is more enjoyable than the version the Coen brothers have created.
There's a pretty good selection at the box office this holiday season, and if you'd have asked me a day ago what the one must-see is I would have voted for The Fighter. (Oh, for the sisters' characters alone.) Now that I've seen True Grit, though, I have five reasons you should send your ticket price the Coen brothers' way:
1) Jeff Bridges and his ability to chew into Rooster's dialogue like a sludgy mouthful of tobacco. I haven't heard a dialect like this since Sling Blade, and it's a gritty, occasionally laugh-out-loud hilarious treat to listen to. Was he able to fill John Wayne's formidable boots? I don't think it matters one bit, because he's pretty wonderful as is. We see him drunken and downtrodden, we see him as a steely-eyed gunslinger; he's thoroughly enjoyable either way.
2) The truly astounding 13-year-old Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross. Her rapid-fire back-and-forth with a Fort Smith merchant early in the movie is just a delicious harbinger of what's to come. As prickly, determined Mattie, she masterfully handles the imposing dialogue she's been given. Hunger Games fans, take note: thanks to all the buzz Steinfeld has been getting for this performance, she's now one of the main actresses being looked at to play Katniss Everdeen.
3) Matt Damon. Man, is he ever terrific in this movie as La Bouef, superbly ridiculous—and eventually utterly charming.
4) The gorgeously bleak and lovely cinematography, evident from the very opening scene (swirling petals, a dead body). The usual brilliant Coen brothers score, which can elevate a cinematic moment to one of nearly heartbreaking beauty.
5) The snap-crackle-and-pop humor the Coen brothers are known for, but a different flavor than what you're used to from these guys. The comedic language of the film plays true to the book, without the truly bizarre moments of past Coen movies.
And for the one cringeworthy, hard-to-watch scene? All I'm going to say is it involves a horse. Oh, "Little Blackie."
All in all, I thought it was a damn fine movie—maybe even better than The Fighter. Have you seen True Grit? What did you think?
Image via IMDB.com