Friday, 7 January 2011
TRUE GRIT 2010/TRUE GRIT 1969 - WHICH HAS THE MOST GRIT?
For one thing those Coen boys are cinematic geniuses and if you don't believe me go and watch Fargo or No Country for Old Men, or Oh Brother Where art Thou or The Big Lebowski. And for another the original source novel by Charles Portis allows for not only a strong female character but a strong child character all in one package, which is something that appeals to the modern audience and gives this grim and gritty story a surreal edge that is almost fairy tale. The character of Rooster Cogburn is the quintessential western loner but for all his gruffness he has a heart and that heart is touched by the little girl who hires him to find her father's killer. And Matt Damon's turn as the Texas Ranger gives us the character we always should have had, the handsome, brave but hot headed cowboy.
It was always going to be difficult for me to accept anyone else other than John Wayne as Rooster - Wayne is a lifelong hero of mine and alongside Clint Eastwood probably my favourite western actor of all. But I do think Jeff Bridges was brilliant and his performance is spot on but for me Wayne had that edge. I also think Wayne's Rooster was a far tougher character for all the darkness of the new version. And the early court room scenes are far better in the Wayne version, as was that shoot out when Rooster gallops towards the bad guys and takes them all on.
The language used in the new True Grit is far more poetic than in the original movie and far closer to the source novel but for all that it is Wayne's version that still wins out. If the Wayne movie had never existed and this was the first version of the novel it would be hard to find fault with it. And indeed as it stands it is a fine movie and seems to be dragging western fans and more importantly general movie goers into the cinema.
But the film is not the vast improvement on the original that many people seem to claim - Barry Pepper seems to be channelling Robert Duvall in his performance as Lucky Ned Pepper, even getting the cadence in his voice in places. And the scene in the new version where Rooster tells Pepper to do what he likes with the girl doesn't really work. In the original we had already been told that Pepper doesn't kill without good reason and yet this is missing from the remake so when Rooster tries his bluff it just doesn't seem right. The horse trading scene in the remake is also not as well done as the original which was one of the better comedic scenes in the entire movie. The film has been called a retelling rather than a remake, but that's just not true. It's a remake and nothing more - there are one or two scenes that weren't in the original but these do not constitute enough new material to qualify as a retelling.
However at the end of the day the new True Grit is an excellent movie and no one could be more pleased than me at its success. I hope it leads to other westerns but if anyone else fancies remaking a classic Wayne movie then please keep your hands off The Searchers.