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'True Grit' Brings Back the Western

  • Penelope Poulou

Jeff Bridges stars as Rooster Cogburn in the Coen brothers on-screen adaptation of Charles Portis’ western novel, 'True Grit.'

With the awards season under way, remake stirs Oscar buzz

The remake of the western True Grit, by filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen is gaining momentum in the lead up to the Oscar nominations. Although it did not win at the Golden Globes, the film has garnered praise from film critics who hail it as a high-caliber western - much better than the original, which came out in the late 1960s.

The Coen brothers on-screen adaptation of Charles Portis’ novel is a classic American western tale of vengeance and guts. It's a much more faithful rendition than the 1968 production which was tailored to fit John Wayne’s persona more than the chararacter of Rooster Cogburn. Despite a lackluster performance, Wayne received an Oscar for best actor in 1969 for his interpretation of the hefty marshal.

The new True Grit exudes nostalgia for old western notions of bravado, justice and blood lust for vengeance. The story is good but not as gripping as the Coen brothers' character-driven drama, No Country For Old Men.

One has come to expect the quirky, dark and unexpected in a Coen Brothers' film but that's not the case with True Grit. The characters are strong, wild but straightforward. Their objective is clear: catch a renegade and possibly kill him or be killed. True Grit shoots straight from the hip, but it endears because of the chemistry among its characters.

Jeff Bridges portrays Cogburn, while Matt Damon is La Boeuf. But the standout is 13-year-old Hailey Steinfeld as Mattie. It’s her first role ever and does she nail it. Mattie is decisive, smart and courageous, businesslike, yet childlike and vulnerable The glue that holds the story together, she’s the one with true grit.

"You never see her back down or back out of anything," says Steinfeld. "And that’s what it is all about, perseverance. You get knocked down, you get right back up again."

The film is an Oscar hopeful and a favorite at the box office, showing that American movie goers are still rooting for good westerns, a genre that has faded since the 1950s but might reclam its old glory with the right amount of grit.