Mattie Ross’ story is back on the movies again, and this time we hear her adult voice first while blurry yellow lights shine somewhere within the centre of the screen. Eventually the audience gets an image of her father, Frank, lying dead in front of a porch.
The camera shows Frank’s body from a safe distance. Eventually the film shows dried skin from cadavers in a mortuary where young Mattie (Hailee Steinfeld) has to sleep, hollowed out eyes, a man (John Goodman?) shot in the head, bodies that become exposed on the snow, men who die because their heads will fall on rocks, a man who has long passed with a snake living where his stomach has been.
Do you want me to count the injuries too? The multiple gun wounds, the ranger Laboeuf (Matt Damon) mangling up his mouth and teeth, Mattie getting spanked, getting a boot on her head and a gun pointed at her, threats of rape directed at her at least once. And that’s not the end of her suffering. As a frank depiction of the Western, the beautifully shot True Grit honestly show the corporeal effects of a violent civilization where the dead are disrespected, some of whom deserve that fate.
We’ve seen this realism in the Coen’s No Country for Old Men, but what makes the violence more shocking is that it’s seen and experienced by a girl. Mattie, who backs up her claims in knowing the legal aspects of 1870’s Arkansas, behaves as if her father’s death has always been a possibility. In his passing, she aims to take care of his business matters, since her mother’s apparently not so good at those things. She also looks for a hired Marshall to hunt for the coward Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), the man who killed her father.
The sheriff gives her three choices for her Marshall and she chooses the meanest one, Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges). The men she encounters already brand her as a headstrong, young woman in pursuing Chaney and going to the country with him despite Cogburn’s advice. Yet in hiring Cogburn, she concedes that she can’t do the job alone. The film exposes other symbolic manifestations of her shortcomings. A hat that’s too small for her that she modifies with a newspaper, her oversized clothing. Buying a pony instead of a horse – although she doesn’t ride side-saddle. She asks Cogburn or Laboeuf what should they do in instances like gunner showdowns, her question actually meaning what are the men going to do for her.
Going back to being unable to do the job alone, that fits not only Mattie but the rest of the major characters as well. Mattie and Laboeuf successfully petition to Cogburn and each other that they’re necessary in the journey, even if they have to do so repeatedly. Laboeuf, who has investigated Chaney, his other crimes and his whereabouts, convinces Cogburn that it takes a two-man job at the least to take Chaney. Mattie is the ethical heart of the journey, her presence in the trek a reminder of Chaney’s crimes.
Along the way, there are some pauses and silences within the film that eventually leads to Coenesque humour. Mattie’s encounters with the men in town, their awkward if not mean-spirited treatment of her greeted with laughter and not of the nervous kind. Cogburn’s encounters with Native kids [ETA] made me feel uncomfortable. And of course, the dentist with the bear suit, taking us away from one-note solemnity that the rest of the journey could have been.
I saw this film with my sister, who lauded Mattie for being a feminist hero and Steinfeld’s fast yet smooth talking performance, besting veterans like Bridges and Damon in the Coenesque dialogue. There are also racial dynamics minimized here. Strangely enough, the black and Asian characters having fewer lines within the narrative compared to the John Wayne vehicle 40 years ago. She lastly pointed out Chaney, as Brolin adds paranoia and vulnerability to his irrational villain. 4/5.
I’m scared because I haven’t done this before. This could have been a reunion film, but sadly, only one of them is still alive. I have rudimentary skills in looking for these names and faces, but I said that this was a good idea so here goes. And this is my blog, I can do whatever I want. And someone do this because obviously, time is running out.
John (Gianni) – Michael Douglas – He’s itching for a comeback and this can help on that leap. And he has that voice too that can be both calming and commanding at the same time. I kinda wanted Michael Caine in this role because di Gregorio reminded me of him, but I wanted a younger guy too.
Valerie (Valeria) – Elaine Stritch. Well if this is gonna be made, Betty White will have to take the meatiest role, but Stritch is more acidic.
Marina – Betty White. We love to see her be in a flirtacious diva role as always.
Mary (Maria) – Angela Lansbury. A conversation in the kitchen. Tempting another woman to eat macaroni casserole. Nobody can do it better.
Grace (Grazia) – Eva Marie Saint. She can knock a nostalgia monologue out of the park.
Al (Alfonso) – Jim Belushi. He played a suit in “The Ghost Writer,” he can play one here.
Doctor – Robin Williams. The perfect guy to light a fire on someone, and he’ll make a great impression on a small role. My first choice for this was Ian Holm, but again, age concerns.
Viking – Jeff Bridges. Everyone loves drunk Jeff Bridges. Unless he’d wanna do something different or larger from his Oscar-winning role in Crazy Heart, this is a fit for him.
“Mid August Lunch,” the only real version of the movie still with Italian actors, is showing at the Revue Cinema in Toronto from today until the 21st. Go see it now!
- I’m pretty sure Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal were drinking during their drinking scenes. I know the teary eyes and the blushing cheeks when I see ’em. My friend Matt called it method acting.
- Watching Bad Blake be an asshole, be sandbagged, and have sex with Maggie Gyllenhaal made me feel really uncomfortable. No pathos nor tragedy is conveyed, just plain awkwardness.
- Don’t wanna hate, but watching Bad Blake shirtless is tolerable unless he stands or sits up.
- Kudos to the cinematographers for the colours in the movie, the cameramen for getting into Jeff Bridges’ face, the location scouts. Great movie in the technical aspects.
- Sure, it’s Jeff Bridges, but he wasn’t the best this year. But then it took me two months to get Colin Firth in “A Single Man.” Will I change my mind about Bridges by May? Also, Maggie Gyllenhaal only had one great scene. Jeff Bridges has zero, or at least he does a little nuance-y things instead of having a bait-y scene, which is typical and refreshing compared to other people’s work. But still, Colin Firth and for that matter, Samantha Morton, got robbed.
- Jean Braddock is not professional. I’ve made out with older men after a few drinks before, but not while working and not while a babysitter is looking after my child at one in the morning. The rest of the movie made it look like Bad Blake had her on his fingernail, which isn’t her fault at all. And although I’m not an expert at her oeuvre, I’ve never been convinced that Maggie Gyllenhaal can play someone trashy enough to do these things.
- If my creative writing prof saw this movie and heard Bad Blake sing, “The sun shines brightly,” he would cut a bitch. It’s the sun. Sometimes it’s yellow, white, but it’s always bright.
- Colin Farrell is a good fit as Tommy Sweet, but he should have shown his face more.
- This movie featured a mostly healthy relationship between a grown man and a child. Finally.
- Time went by really fast watching this movie, and I haven’t said that about a movie I liked in a long time.