Unapologetic progressive. Fearless activist. Plucky liberal.

"True Grit"

Rick and I saw “True Grit” today, and we both really enjoyed it. I don’t want to spoil anything if you haven’t seen it, so further discussion is behind the cut.

I haven’t read the story or seen the original movie, so I can comment only on the remake. I’m not usually a fan of Westerns, but this one had a good plot, great actors and a lovely soundtrack. One of the cool things about the movie is it’s told from the perspective of a 14-year-old girl, Mattie Ross, who is trying to avenge the murder of her father. Hailee Steinfeld is outstanding in this role and I’m eager to see more from her. I’m also a fan of Matt Damon, and he brought his considerable skills to the role of Texas Ranger LaBoeuf. Jeff Bridges was likable as U.S. Marshal Rueben Cogburn, but sometimes his accent was so thick it was hard for me to tell what he was saying.

What I really enjoyed about the movie was seeing a young girl as a main character who is driven by motives that have nothing to do with boys. In fact, boys are never mentioned as far as love interests for Mattie. She is determined to kill her father’s murderer–not just bring him to justice, but see him hang. That is her sole focus. Mattie is smart, determined, and fearless, and although she’s dismissed by most of the adults she meets because of her age and gender, she eventually earns their respect through her pluckiness.

Another thing that’s interesting about the movie is that Mattie isn’t afraid to use a gun. She first wounds and then kills her father’s murderer, Tom Chaney. Cogburn and LaBoeuf help her find the outlaw, but she shoots him herself. It’s rare to see a girl commit violence in movies.

“True Grit” just barely manages to pass the Bechdel test, which is a standard feminists use to judge how a movie treats women. A movie must pass three criteria:

  1. It has to have at least two women in it
  2. who talk to each other
  3. about something other than a man.

I say “barely” because the only other woman with a speaking part runs the boarding house, and I’m not sure we know her name. (Some variations of the test require that both of the women be named characters.) You’d be surprised at how many movies fail this basic test. I love “Star Wars,” but I’m not sure any of the six movies would pass. Same goes for “Lord of the Rings,” and many other movies at the Bechdel Test Movie List.

The only other criticism I have for “True Grit” is that I would have liked more closure. Mattie suffers a life-changing injury at the end of the movie, and she never sees either Cogburn or LaBoeuf again. I would have liked a reunion at some point, but that seems to be asking for too much. Overall, though, I recommend you see it if you have a chance.

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Comments on: ""True Grit"" (5)

  1. Great film and terrific soundtrack. Having seen both versions (in the theater no less), I like the new one better than the original. Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, and Matt Damon are all perfect in their roles. I think Jeff Bridges is the only actor in America that could pull off playing Rooster Cogburn better than John Wayne did.

  2. Megan McClure said:

    I’ve been wanting to see this! Thanks for the review! I hope I find the time to see this one.

    • It’s a good one. I think you’d like it, but I know you have a lot on your list that you want to see.

  3. While I did enjoy the film, I found it annoying how precocious Maddie was for a 14 year old girl. How on earth does she possess all the skills and vast knowledge of law and accounting for a girl her age. Gimme a break.

    Sometimes I would prefer to watch a movie where a kid can be a kid. Not that I need her to be talking about boys or going after a boy, I like the break from that, but on the whole it felt so unbelievable, especially with no explanation for how she got so mature for her age.

    • I see your point. I’m annoyed too when kids act years older than they are, and probably would have been if Mattie had been any younger. I guess I assumed she learned a lot from her father, since she knew so much about his business–how much crops sold for, the arrangement with the ponies, etc. She also said her mother was pretty helpless, so she might have had to learn how to run the household at a young age. I wonder if the book explains more in depth.

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