Sunday, January 16, 2011


As Movie Lines go, right up there with, “Here’s Lookin’ at you, Kid,” and “There’s No Place Like Home,”---along with, of course, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat,” is the reins-in-the-mouth shout of Rooster Cogburn,


And that line was delivered, in toto, with the perfect inflections, in this movie we saw today. It seemed to be one of the only holdovers from the Original movie.

Okay, Y’all. I’m gonna be REAL frank here; I’m gonna buck the great Movie-Critic Tide and say that True Grit was not at all what I expected. It’s grim and gritty (lovely word for just that purpose) and dirty and you KNOW they all smell. It’s set in the West of long-ago, of course, and the filming in the tans and the darks and the grabby bushes and the spiky trees around Austin and Santa Fe just sets the somber tone even more unvividly than ever. I've been there, and it's unbelievably beautiful, but today, it was a hopeless landscape, somehow, the way the browns and sands and umbers just lie there, unwelcoming in that gray light.

The clothes are drab and long-worn (expected), the people are unwashed and proud of it (naturally) and the days pass in taupe, the nights in charcoal, as they ride and stop and shoot and argue, and ride some more.

All that makes a superb movie, cast and set and decorated and costumed and make-upped in perfect order. Her satiny braids unravel a bit, the untidy bedrolls show wisps of last month’s sleeping-grass, everybody gleams with the oily sheen of living on horseback in a bathless country. (All those yards of brand-new rope seem a bit out of place, and where DID she get that bucket?) And I DID notice that the eye-patch has swapped eyes, whether for the comfort of the actor, or deference to The Duke’s Right-Eyed performance.

And there WAS one memorable scene in which Rooster, pie-eyed drunk, is skeet-shooting up all the travelin’ cornpone as a demonstration of his aim, flinging the little patties into the air, falling down from drink and from the vigor of the hurling, and, with the preposteroned air of an ancient stag in his last great clash of antlers, challenging the young upstart LeBeouf to join in.

And I’ve READ the book. I have. And the movie’s taken WAY more directly from the book than the first outing---the one with John Wayne and Glen Campbell and Kim Darby. I DO realize the language of the time was still formal and taken from the old days, from the Great Literature and Poetry and Shakespeare.

And though there was a great deal of mumbling (Rooster as a matter of his character’s whiskey-soaked, talking-around-a-home-rolled demeanor, and LeBeouf from a bitten tongue, as well as sundry other characters springing from the sagebrush and hills and woods, from their solitary seclusions of no-conversation-for-months-at-a-time). These people leapt upon the screen as upon the unwary, bursting forth with sentences unparseable by an Oxford don, and past understanding through the baccy and beard. These grubby trail-wanderers wearing half-bears, and the dugout-dwellers of greasy countenance---these people who had never put eye to page in their illiterate LIVES---all spouted four-and-five-syllable formalities customarily delivered by the likes of Gielgud and Olivier and Oliver Wendell Holmes.

The delivery was so fast and so stilted that blinking could have caused a total miss of three pages of script, and a sneeze---Wow, is it Tuesday already? I understood, definition wise, all the dialogue, but the delivery---on, my, the delivery.

I’ve read the reviews, and the glowing stars almost blinded me, but I Just. Don’t. Get. It. I don’t. I felt as if I were watching a High School production---elaborately cast and lit and scened, but somehow the players had spent all their four years of school memorizing The Scottish Play, but were suddenly handed the script of Deadwood, and were reading First Reading, cold.

That’s how it felt, with great long sentences of high-falutin’ words flying past our heads as fast as the deep-echoed gunshots. I knew the meaning of them, and could use them myself if the right confluence of planets and whalebone stays required, but I’m gonna have to go read that book again.

I fair-on LOVED all these characters, even the unredeemable ones, the ones who just NEEDED shootin’---they all seemed to derive a gallant grace from the speech, if not from morals or pride. They were spot-on who they were, but they just seemed so (that word again) STILTED and breathless all the time, as if the director had given them five seconds for a forty-word line.

Mattie hired Rooster, she kept up with him, she certainly out-talked him. And I suppose that was the premise here.


Patsy said...


Kat said...

My son loved it. Of course, he didn't read the book or see John Wayne's version, but plans to. My friends saw it and didn't like it.


Chesapeake said...

Haven't seen this version, but the commercials certainly don't _sound_ like the book, as did the first one.

Marjorie (Molly) Smith said...

first I loved anything John Wayne stared in, not so with Jeff Bridges, he just doesn't fit the part of TRUE GRIT to me..just my opinion. I won't be seeing it, my oldest saw both and was not impressed with this new version.
Thanks for giving us your opinion, helped me decide I didn't need to waste my time.

Jeanne said...

Rachel, I didn't even know there was a remake of that movie. Have I been that snowed in?? HA! Anyway, I would not be interested in seeing it and now more than ever. I love your review. Maybe you have missed your calling. You should be a movie critic. Not really, then I would never have the pleasure of reading your wonderful words.

I also read and reread your previous post. Your words said so much about you and your wonderful writer's mind. I am NOT a writer at all and I was spellbound reading the awesome and sometimes struggle you have to put all of your moments of great ideas on paper. I wished I knew of the several people you wrote about that left deep impressions on you and your writing world. I thought I was a fairly well read person but now, not so much. LOL. In my world of gardening, entertaining and decorating etc. I often can't sleep just thinking about the ideas running through my brain for the next project I will undertake. Maybe that is a bit like your writing ideas. If so, I can understand your whirling mind thinking about writing. Smile.

Well, I didn't mean to get so wordy but I just had to leave this comment to tell you how much I love reading anything you write.
With great admiration,

Keetha said...

I haven't read the book nor seen the original movie (or this version, either) and I've heard a number of people who seem to share your puzzlement.

Both my husband and my brother are quite eager to see it - maybe they won't be disappointed.

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

Hi Racheld!
I saw the first the theatre and later on television I think. I like Westerns, but I really don't remember being crazy about True Grit. I remember thinking it was rather cute that a girl so young could be so determined....but nothing I would like to see again. It just didn't become a classic in my mind. But then I am a bit out of step with many in my choice of movies. For instance, I was overwhelmed by "Heaven's Gate" and wondered why it wasn't a hit! They called it a "sleeper" I believe. I thought it was a work of art. But then as I say...I'm a wee out of step.
I saw that the remake True Grit was out and considered it..but truthfully, had I seen the eye patch change eyes..or noticed "new rope" I would have been gone. Petty maybe, but things like that in a film will ruin it for me every time. Detail! For me it's all about detail.

I trust your judgement..but I will watch it if it come available on Netflex..and then of course think.."I SHOULD have listened to Racheld!"