Walking into a Western, 99% of today’s youth expects a slow moving plot, dated dialogue, overacting, and tired settings. Critics argue that the genre is dead, that the golden age of the Western film passed away with John Wayne.
This weekend, however, the Coen brothers’ True Grit was a reminder that a new Western can be true to its roots, while still being modern, witty, and totally awesome. The story surrounds Mattie, a 14-year-old girl who seeks justice for her murdered father. She hires a tough-as-nails US Marshal, Rooster Cogburn, to search for Tom Chaney, the man who killed her father; cocky Texas Ranger LaBoeuf joins them.
In a word, True Grit was fantastic. The Coen brothers often walk the line between humor and dead seriousness – movies like Fargo and A Serious Man are known for this quality. However, with True Grit, I think that they’ve finally perfected the balance between heaviness and lightness.
At times, the superbly written script is laugh-out-loud funny, but doesn’t detract from the graver scenes. In addition, the authenticity of the dialogue helps plant you in the setting gracefully and makes it feel familiar, as opposed to plopping you suddenly into someplace completely foreign.
Performances by the brilliant Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon take full advantage of the script – you’ll be quoting this movie for a week after you see it.
However, the surprising treat of this movie is the actress who plays Mattie, the 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld. Her frank portrayal of Mattie makes her funny, likeable, and the perfect balance for LaBoeuf and Rooster. The first half-hour of the movie is all her, and you won’t find yourself being bored – you’ll be laughing. For a first-time-actress, she does a great job holding her own on screen with Bridges and Damon.
What’s the moral of this review? Go see True Grit. Go love True Grit. It’s funnier than you’d expect, and you’ll love the No Country For Old Men-esque ending – it fits here. I guarantee that you’ll enjoy it completely.