True Grit

True Grit poster
Wanted: misogynist studio cronies who refuse to give the lead actress top billing just because she's a little girl

I must admit I’m not usually a fan of Westerns. True Grit just kinda popped up out of nowhere for me ‘coz Jenny was itching to see a movie, and I’d seen the Oscars nominations earlier that day and it was listed in the Best Movie category so I figure it couldn’t be that bad. In my head, I categorised it alongside There Will Be Blood, Brokeback Mountain, The Assassination of Jesse James, and No Country For Old Men – none of which I’ve seen – but between them they’ve snagged quite a sizeable number of nominations and Awards, so I figured that maybe I’ve been missing out on something.

True Grit -is- pretty special – a well thought-out period piece that isn’t a recycled Austen or Bronte storyline for the girls nor an action-packed cowboy adventure for the boys, although this could very well be put down to my having ignored this genre and it hasn’t been this way since… well, ever, and I’m just struggling for something intelligent to say :-)

The story follows the quest of 14-year old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) in trying to avenge the murder of her father by the Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). With an endearing tenacity, and maturity beyond her years, she acquires the services of the US Marshall and drunkard Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges). Complicating matters is Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (pronounced “la-BEEF”, Matt Damon), who’s also after Chaney for crimes committed in his state.

The American drawl is very difficult to understand, but where you do pick up bits and pieces the dialogue is quite funny, so it’ll probably be even better on DVD with the subtitles on.

I found Mattie to be too precocious, but Jenny absolutely loved how she was so empowered, independent and resourceful. The character’s popularity might lie with the lack of empowered female lead characters that are’t based on sex appeal or “cuteness” (a few recent examples: Easy A, Tangled, Kick Ass). This movie makes it possible because it’s a period piece, set at a unique point in time in our civilisation somewhere along the timeline from mindless savagery to modern individual rights and freedoms, when a restrictive moral code was applied to and accepted by whole societies. That Mattie was able to achieve what she did in the narrative unmolested – in whatever sense you care to read that word – is remarkable. What does it say about me when I spent the whole movie anticipating that something untoward would happen to her? (The worse that happens is she falls into a pit and has a near-miss encounter with a couple of deadly rattlesnakes – well, that’s pretty bad, but you know what I mean!)

On a separate note, which I allude to in the image caption above: I’m somewhat dismayed at how the marketers have chosen not to give star billing to Steinfeld, simply because she’s a relative unknown and not a Hollywood A-lister like the blokes. She did an excellent job of carrying the movie, and it’s kinda sad that the movie is being sold only on the star power of its leading men. Thankfully though, she’s been nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

Now all that remains is to see how many they manage to pick up, although they’re up against very stiff competition this year with The Social Network, The King’s Speech, Inception and Black Swan.

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