Sunday, January 16, 2011
True Grit: Bridges, Damon and the Cohens Abide
The Cohen Brothers and Jeff Bridges have done it again. In their largely original remake of the 1969 John Wayne classic, True Grit, St. Louis Park, MN natives Joel and Ethan Cohen continue to demonstrate why they are the best filmmakers in the industry today, bar none. What separates the Cohens from everyone else is their incredible ear for dialogue.
In their Academy Award winning film, "No Country for Old Men" the dialogue had a life, timing and rhythm completely of its own. I told everyone I know they had to see this movie just for the dialogue, which I described as "...being so lyrical it was almost like music". This was in sharp contrast to the dark and foreboding subject matter: the ultra violence of the cross-border drug trade.
Now the Cohens have applied their considerable writing, casting and directing talents to a genre that many had written off as something of the past and injected new life and vitality into it. Now I am the first to admit that when I heard that the Cohens had selected True Grit for their next project I had my doubts. One of my biggest peeves regarding today's Hollywood (or Nashville for that matter) is the intellectual and creative laziness in doing remakes of classic films or music and phoning in the results. If the original was a true classic, no one needs some of today's lesser talents aping their way through a line by line, note for note rip off. You all know of which I speak and space limitations does not permit my reciting them here. This is precisely why I am so gosh struck over this film.
You see, I am of the age that I can honestly say that I saw the original in its first run in the theaters way back in 1969-70. Although John Wayne was getting all the press at the time and finally receiving some of the critical acclaim and peer recognition that his long career so richly deserved (e.g. The Searchers, Shane and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon) but rarely received, what immediately struck me at the time was the strong performance by acting novice and under appreciated musician Glen Campbell. Adding to Wayne's and Campbell's strong performances was an incredible cast of the industry's finest character actors which included the likes of the venerable, cult idol Strother Martin and destined to be legendary Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper.
I am more than pleased to say that the 2010 Grit does the original proud because of its originality. Jeff Bridges, in his understated, effortless and classy manner, has taken the torch from Robert DeNiro as film's greatest male lead. Newcomer Hallie Steinfeld is a shoe-in for an Oscar and holds her own in on screen presence with the likes of Jeff Bridges and an almost overlooked but wonderfully played supporting role by Matt Damon. Damon is, in fact, so good that you can almost forgive him for playing a role in giving us Ben Affleck, who, along with Dennis Quaid, are the two worst actors in history.
So whether you are lover of the Cohen brothers, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, classic westerns or just plain old damn good cinema , gallop don't trot to the theater to see "True Grit".