Coen Brothers Re-Imagine True Grit. The Dude Replaces The Duke.

by Matt Forcey

In 1969 John Wayne was chosen to play the drunken, irascible U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn in the big screen adaptation of Charles Portis’ True Grit.  The role won Wayne the Academy Award (his one and only) and Golden Globe for Best Actor.  Over the years though, many film critics have dismissed Wayne’s performance as over-the-top and hammy, suggesting that these accolades were more an overdue recognition of his forty year career. 

Regardless of The Duke’s performance, the reality is that the whole movie was fairly schmaltzy, like so many movies from that time are when compared to the original author’s manuscript or to today’s explicit, often graphic, cinematic style.  Come this December, True Grit fans (hell, movie fans all) will be reintroduced to what is sure to be a more “authentic” rendition of  the Portis classic.  And, nobody does authentic and graphic quite like the Joel and Ethan Coen. 

“It’s partly a question of point-of-view” said Ethan Coen, talking about how their new film will be a closer representation of the novel than the 1969 version.  “Another way in which the book is different from the 1969 movie – and maybe this is just because of the time the movie was made- is that it’s a lot tougher and more violent than the movie reflects”, Ethan noted.  Not restricted by 1960’s theatrical mores, the Coens, with their new “true-to-book” adaptation are sure to give us all the grit we can handle, and then some. 

True Grit transports us into the life of recently orphaned, 14-year old Mattie Ross on her quest to bring her father’s killer to justice.  Determined and utterly precocious, Mattie capitalizes on Rooster Cogburn’s need for drinking money and recruits the Marshal, “a man with true grit”, to aid her in a hunt that takes them deep into Indian Territory. 

Taking over the role of Cogburn from John Wayne, is Jeff Bridges (anyone want to make a “The Duke” vs. “The Dude” quip here?).  Bridges of course has previously worked with the Coen brothers, as the allegorical Jeff Lebowski, and has recent relevant experience as a cantankerous drunk from his own Academy Award winning role in Crazy Heart.  Supporting Bridges are a couple of other guys.  Uhm, a Matt Damon, I guess he’s done some indie work. And another guy, Josh Brolin, who you might remember from The Goonies.  Additionally, we get the always appealing and often overlooked Barry Pepper in the role of Lucky Ned Pepper (no relation). 

For a couple of guys from the Midwest, Joel and Ethan have a  real knack for weaving the landscapes of  our southern and western states into living characters, as aptly demonstrated in Raising Arizona, O Brother Where Art Thou, and No Country for Old Men.  Filmed in Texas and New Mexico, we expect nothing less from True Grit.

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One Comment to “Coen Brothers Re-Imagine True Grit. The Dude Replaces The Duke.”

  1. please read this review of the film. This True Grit was actually quite bad, as this reviewer so articulately points out.

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