Thursday, 3 March 2011

Whose True Grit is Truest?

Although I consider myself politically left of centre, I've always enjoyed John Wayne's westerns. When I was growing up in 1970s America, Wayne stood for something people longed for - a simpler time when the good guys were easy to spot and the bad guys always got what they deserved. Wayne's own rightwing leanings didn't come into it.  It was a film, afterall.  Fiction.  People used to be able to leave their politics in the cinema lobby and enjoy the myth. Times change: we're all postmodernists now.

I looked forward to seeing the remake of True Grit because a) I like westerns, and b) I like the Coen brothers (at least Fargo, O Brother, and No Country). I'm afraid their True Grit, however, just didn't live up to my expectations.  The performance of Hailee Steinfeld as fourteen-year-old Mattie was quite exceptional - her earnestness was unflinching, and of all the characters it is she who has true grit. Jeff Bridges was less convincing, though he worked hard to capture the tough-as-nails on the outside, soft-as-sh*t on the inside Rooster as portrayed by Wayne. But ... (you knew it was coming), there was one point in the film, after which I was dragged right out of the West and back into Vue cinema at Gunwarf Quays: when the La Boeuf is accidentally shot by Cogburn, the bullet passes through his shoulder, entering the front of his fringed leather coat and exiting through the back. Though there was a considerable amount of blood on La Boeuf's shirt, quite remarkably, there was no stain on his coat. The exit hole was clean as a whistle. That lost it for me. Why show me a mouldy man hung up in a tree and fingers chopped off, and then show me a completely - and more importantly - unbelievably unbloodied coat?  I'm not looking for a bloodbath, just consistency.


Robert Head said...

I saw True Grit on Monday. I noticed the lack of blood, too, and the fact that characters can unexpectedly very quickly recover from gunshots and serious blows to the end! Nice one, Loree.

Loree said...

Thanks Robert. It is quite perplexing, isn't it. I'm doing a lot of research into the authenticity issue in literature of the American West, so going to see 'True Grit' was a bit of a busman's holiday for me.

As well as the aforementioned lack of blood, I was also unconvinced by Rooster's ability to pick Mattie up, after her horse collapsed (having been raced across the prairie for what must have been hours), and RUNNING through the dark to find help. I wondered if we were entering into the realms of magical realism and half expected Rooster to sprout wings and fly.