CinemaDave (cinemadave) wrote,

Jeff Bridges follows in the footsteps of Warren Oates and John Wayne

He has not made a movie in 35 years, but the ghost of John Wayne still roams the celluloid countryside. With the release of the Coen Brothers **True Grit,** John Wayne’s original classic has been given much air time on cable stations. Note that I wrote “John Wayne’s **True Grit,**” compared to the “Joel and Ethan Coen Brother’s **True Grit;** for this foreshadows the philosophical differences between these two fine motion pictures, which tells the same story but were filmed forty years apart.

Both films follow the novel written by Charles Portis and to the Coen Brothers credit, with enough visual twists to entertain people who have seen the Classic **True Grit.** 14 year old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfield) wants to avenge the murder of her father by the notorious Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). Mattie recruits Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a double tough one eyed marshal who is known to pull a cork. The two are joined by Le Beouf (Matt Damon), a cocksure Texas Ranger who antagonizes the Frontier Marshal.

Rooster Cogburn is Jeff Bridges best performance in recent weeks and Matt Damon creates the correct balance between naiveté and arrogance as the Texas Ranger. This is Hailee Seinfeld’s film from beginning to end. A stoic character throughout the narrative, Seinfeld’s vulnerable time as Mattie Ross is a special private moment for the audience.

As literature, **True Grit** ranks with **To Kill a Mockingbird** in terms of presenting a young woman’s rite of passage. Both films open and close with Mattie Ross’s perspective. The fundamental difference between these two motion pictures is that the Coen Brother’s vision is dark and pessimistic, while John Wayne’s vision is more life affirming.

There are numerous reminders of death in the new **True Grit** with plenty of corpses strewn about the scenery. Both films end at the grave of a dearly departed character, the tone is somber for the Coen Brother’s interpretation. In contrast, the John Wayne version shows the value of postponing death and riding beyond the sunset.

The new **True Grit** is one of the best things on the big screen today and the public has rewarded this motion picture with consistent Box Office revenue. With the absence of Attention Deficient Disorder editing, the shootouts and the showdowns have more emotional clarity.

Like Jazz, Blues and musical theater, Westerns are a great American cultural art form. While the character archetypes are the prodigies of Homer and Virgil’s ancestors, the landscapes and mountain vistas capture the beauty of our nation’s natural bounty. Film makers should take heed of **True Grit’s** success, there is a need in our society today for big screen story telling like this.
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