Monday, January 2, 2012

True Grit: Still magic after all these years

Do you have an all-time favorite movie?

Or do you have a favorite for a year or two or ten, then one day along comes something you like better and your all-time favorite moves into the number two spot, eventually lower or perhaps someday even drops off your list?

For me, there’s just one – always and forever. It’s the original “True Grit.” I have to admit -- the remake is good, really good. The actors are incredible. If anyone could give John Wayne, the Duke, a run for his money in this film, it’s Jeff Bridges. He’s not John Wayne’s Rooster Cogburn, but his Rooster is one hell of a character.

Hailee Steinfeld is this side of amazing as Mattie Ross. Honestly, how is this kid ever going to top her performance here?

But she’s not Kim Darby.

Matt Damon makes LaBoeuf a little more believable that Glen Campbell did and he’s not too hard to look at, either. Yet, who couldn’t love and laugh at the bumbling LaBoeuf characterized by the singing cowboy.

And, my bet is we’re a lot more likely to remember Josh Brolin’s Tom Chaney than Jeff Corey’s.

Jeff who? Josh, ooo…

But what made True Grit, the 1969 version, my favorite film ever, the one I saw five times back in the days when people just didn’t spend money that frivolously, was the cast, the story, the way they interacted, and the soundtrack.

I was sad when I left the theatre after watching the new version of the film. It just wasn’t the same without hearing Campbell singing, “… some days, little girl, you’ll wonder what life’s about … you’ll look around to find someone who’s kind, someone who is fearless like you. The pain of it will ease a bit when you find a man with True Grit.”

The magic of it all

For me, back then, part of the magic, the appeal of the movie was the soundtrack, the way Campbell’s music helped to tell the story. For novice True Gritters, the lack of music in the remake was surely a non-event, but for me, it was a big disappointment.

There aren’t many movies for which I can remember where I sat (the left side of the mezzanine of Galesburg’s Orpheum Theater), who I was with (name shall remain undisclosed) and when I saw it (the summer before my senior year in high school).

But what really captured my heart and holds it still today was that spunky little tomboy and the relationship she built with the big, bad Rooster Cogburn, the love the tough guy showed for the “little lady,” even when he tried not to, and the best movie quote of all time.

Who can’t love “Fill your hands, you [expletive deleted]?”

© Ann Tracy Mueller 2012

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