True Grit is a 2010 American Revisionist Western film directed, written, produced, and edited by the Coen brothers and executive produced by Steven Spielberg. It is the second adaptation of Charles Portis' 1968 novel of the same name, which was previously filmed in 1969 starring John Wayne and Glen Campbell. This version stars Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross and Jeff Bridges as Deputy U.S. Marshal Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn, along with Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and Barry Pepper.
Feisty 14 year-old farm girl Mattie Ross (Steinfeld) hires Cogburn, a boozy, trigger-happy lawman (Bridges) after an outlaw named Tom Chaney (Brolin) murders her father. The bickering duo are accompanied on their quest by a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (Damon) who has been tracking Chaney for killing a State Senator. As they embark on a dangerous adventure, each character has his or her "grit" tested in different ways.
Filming began in March 2010, and the film was officially released in the U.S. on December 22, 2010 after advance screenings earlier that month. The film opened the 61st Berlin International Film Festival on February 10, 2011. It was well received by critics, garnering a 96% Rotten Tomatoes score. It was nominated for ten Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Bridges), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Steinfeld), Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing. However, it won none. The film was released on Blu-ray and DVD on June 7, 2011.
Theatrical release poster
by Charles Portis
|Music by||Carter Burwell|
|Edited by||Roderick Jaynes|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$252.3 million|
Mattie Ross's father was murdered by Tom Chaney when she was 14 years old. While collecting her father's body in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Mattie asks the local sheriff about the search for Chaney. He tells her that Chaney has fled with "Lucky" Ned Pepper and his gang into Indian Territory, where the sheriff has no authority, so she inquires about hiring a Deputy U.S. Marshal. The sheriff gives three recommendations, and Mattie chooses Rooster Cogburn. Cogburn initially rebuffs her offer, not believing she has the money to hire him, but she raises the money by aggressively horse-trading with Colonel Stonehill.
Texas Ranger LaBoeuf arrives in town, pursuing Chaney for the murder of a Texas State Senator. LaBoeuf proposes joining Cogburn, but Mattie refuses his offer. She wishes Chaney to be hanged in Arkansas for her father's murder, not in Texas for killing the senator. Mattie also insists on traveling with Cogburn but he leaves without her, having gone with LaBoeuf to apprehend Chaney and split the reward.
After being refused passage on the ferry that conveyed Cogburn and LaBoeuf, Mattie crosses the river on horseback. LaBoeuf expresses his displeasure by spanking Mattie with a stick, but Cogburn eventually allows Mattie to accompany them. After a dispute over their respective service with the Confederate Army, Cogburn ends their arrangement and LaBoeuf leaves to pursue Chaney on his own. Cogburn and Mattie meet a trail doctor who directs them to an empty dugout for shelter. They find two outlaws, Quincy and Moon, and interrogate them. Quincy insists they have no information about the Pepper gang, but eventually Moon divulges what he knows; Quincy fatally stabs Moon, and Cogburn shoots Quincy dead. Before dying, Moon says Pepper and his gang will be returning for fresh horses that night.
LaBoeuf arrives at the dugout and is confronted by the Pepper gang. Cogburn, hiding on the hillside with Mattie, shoots two gang members and accidentally hits LaBoeuf, but Pepper escapes. However, Cogburn and LaBoeuf argue the next day, and the latter departs again. While retrieving water from a stream, Mattie encounters Chaney. She shoots him, but he survives and drags her back to Pepper, who forces Cogburn to leave by threatening to kill her. Pepper leaves Mattie alone with Chaney, ordering him not to harm her or he will not get paid after his remount arrives.
Chaney tries to knife Mattie, but LaBoeuf appears and knocks Chaney out. They watch from a distance as Cogburn fights the remaining members of Pepper's gang, killing two and wounding Ned before his horse is shot and falls, trapping his leg, whereupon LaBoeuf snipes Pepper. Chaney regains consciousness and knocks out LaBoeuf, but Mattie seizes LaBoeuf's rifle and shoots Chaney in the chest. The recoil knocks her into a deep pit, where she is bitten by a rattlesnake. Cogburn cuts into her hand to suck out as much of the venom as he can, then rides day and night to reach a doctor, carrying her on foot after her horse collapses from exhaustion.
Mattie's left forearm is amputated due to gangrene from the snakebite. Cogburn stays until she is out of danger, but leaves before she regains consciousness. She never sees Cogburn or LaBoeuf again, despite writing a letter inviting Cogburn to collect the money she owed him. Twenty-five years later, she receives a note from Cogburn inviting her to a travelling Wild West show where he now performs. She arrives, only to learn that he died three days earlier. She has his body moved to her family cemetery. Standing over Cogburn's grave, she reflects on her decision to move his remains, and about never having married, as well as the possibility of seeing LaBoeuf again.
It's partly a question of point-of-view. The book is entirely in the voice of the 14-year-old girl. That sort of tips the feeling of it over a certain way. I think [the book is] much funnier than the movie was so I think, unfortunately, they lost a lot of humor in both the situations and in her voice. It also ends differently than the movie did. You see the main character – the little girl – 25 years later when she's an adult. Another way in which it's a little bit different from the 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. Which is part of what's interesting about it.
Mattie Ross "is a pill", said Ethan Coen in a December 2010 interview, "but there is something deeply admirable about her in the book that we were drawn to", including the Presbyterian-Protestant ethic so strongly imbued in a 14-year-old girl. Joel Coen said that the brothers did not want to "mess around with what we thought was a very compelling story and character". The film's producer, Scott Rudin, said that the Coens had taken a "formal, reverent approach" to the Western genre, with its emphasis on adventure and quest. "The patois of the characters, the love of language that permeates the whole film, makes it very much of a piece with their other films, but it is the least ironic in many regards".
Nevertheless, there are subtle ways in which the film adaptation differs from the original novel. This is particularly evident in the negotiation scene between Mattie and her father's undertaker. In the film, Mattie bargains over her father's casket and proceeds to spend the night among the corpses to avoid paying for the boardinghouse. This scene is, in fact, nonexistent in the novel, where Mattie is depicted as refusing to bargain over her father's body, and never entertains the thought of sleeping among the corpses.
Open casting sessions were held in Texas in November 2009 for the role of Mattie Ross. The following month, Paramount Pictures announced a casting search for a 12- to 16-year-old girl, describing the character as a "simple, tough as nails young woman" whose "unusually steely nerves and straightforward manner are often surprising". Steinfeld, then age 13, was selected for the role from a pool of 15,000 applicants. "It was, as you can probably imagine, the source of a lot of anxiety", Ethan Coen told The New York Times. "We were aware if the kid doesn't work, there's no movie".
The film was shot in the Santa Fe, New Mexico, area in March and April 2010, as well as in Granger and Austin, Texas. The first trailer was released in September; a second trailer premiered with The Social Network.
For the final segment of the film, a one-armed body double was needed for Elizabeth Marvel (who played the adult Mattie). After a nationwide call, the Coen brothers cast Ruth Morris – a 29-year-old social worker and student who was born without a left forearm. Morris has more screen time in the film than Marvel.
|Film||Release date||Box office revenue||Box office ranking||Budget||Reference|
|North America||North America||Other territories||Worldwide||All time United States||All time worldwide|
|True Grit||December 22, 2010||$171,050,328||$79,880,786||$250,931,114||No. 168||No. 327||$38,000,000|||
In the holiday weekend following its December 22 North American debut, True Grit took in $25.6 million at the box office, twice its pre-release projections. By its second weekend ending January 2, the film had earned $87.1 million domestically, becoming the Coen brothers' highest-grossing film, surpassing No Country for Old Men, which earned $74.3 million. True Grit was the only mainstream movie of the 2010 holiday season to exceed the revenue expectations of its producers. Based on that performance, The Los Angeles Times predicted that the film would likely become the second-highest grossing western of all time when inflation is discounted, exceeded only by Dances with Wolves. On Thursday, December 23, 2010, it opened to No. 3 behind Little Fockers and Tron: Legacy. On Friday, December 24, 2010, it went up to No. 2 behind Little Fockers. On Friday, December 31, 2010, it went up to No. 1 and then on January 1, 2011, it went back to No. 2 until January 3, 2011. It stayed No. 1 until January 14 and then went down to No. 3 behind The Green Hornet and The Dilemma. On February 11, 2011, it went down to No. 9 behind Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, Just Go With It, Gnomeo and Juliet, The Eagle, The Roommate, The King's Speech, No Strings Attached, and Sanctum. It closed in theaters on April 28, 2011. True Grit took in an additional $15 million in what is usually a slow month for movie attendance, reaching $110 million. According to Box Office Mojo, True Grit has grossed over $170 million domestically and $250 million worldwide as of July 2011.
Both the brothers and Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore attributed the film's success partly to its "soft" PG-13 rating, atypical for a Coen brothers film, which helped broaden audience appeal. Paramount anticipated that the film would be popular with the adults who often constitute the Coen brothers' core audience, as well as fans of the Western genre. But True Grit also drew extended families: parents, grandparents, and teenagers. Geographically, the film played strongest in Los Angeles and New York, but its top 20 markets also included Oklahoma City; Plano, Texas; and Olathe, Kansas.
True Grit received critical acclaim. Roger Ebert awarded 3.5 stars out of 4, writing, "What strikes me is that I'm describing the story and the film as if it were simply, if admirably, a good Western. That's a surprise to me, because this is a film by the Coen Brothers, and this is the first straight genre exercise in their career. It's a loving one. Their craftsmanship is a wonder", and also remarking, "The cinematography by Roger Deakins reminds us of the glory that was, and can still be, the Western."
The Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan gave the film 4 out of 5 stars, writing, "The Coens, not known for softening anything, have restored the original's bleak, elegiac conclusion and as writer-directors have come up with a version that shares events with the first film but is much closer in tone to the book ... Clearly recognizing a kindred spirit in Portis, sharing his love for eccentric characters and odd language, they worked hard, and successfully, at serving the buoyant novel as well as being true to their own black comic brio."
In his review for the Minneapolis Star Tribune Colin Covert wrote: "the Coens dial down the eccentricity and deliver their first classically made, audience-pleasing genre picture. The results are masterful." Richard Corliss of Time named Hailee Steinfeld's performance one of the Top 10 Movie Performances of 2010, saying "She delivers the orotund dialogue as if it were the easiest vernacular, stares down bad guys, wins hearts. That's a true gift".
Rex Reed of the New York Observer criticized the film's pacing, referring to plot points as "mere distractions ... to divert attention from the fact that nothing is going on elsewhere". Reed considers Damon "hopelessly miscast" and finds Bridges' performance mumbly, lumbering, and self-indulgent. Entertainment Weekly gave the movie a B+: "Truer than the John Wayne showpiece and less gritty than the book, this True Grit is just tasty enough to leave movie lovers hungry for a missing spice."
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops review called the film "exceptionally fine" and said "[a]mid its archetypical characters, mythic atmosphere and amusingly idiosyncratic dialogue, writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen's captivating drama uses its heroine's sensitive perspective – as well as a fair number of biblical and religious references – to reflect seriously on the violent undertow of frontier life".
Rotten Tomatoes reported that 96% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 263 reviews, with an average score of 8.4/10 and with its consensus stating: "Girded by strong performances from Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, and lifted by some of the Coens' most finely tuned, unaffected work, True Grit is a worthy companion to the Charles Portis book." Metacritic gave the film an average score of 80/100 based on 41 reviews from mainstream critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Total Film gave the film a five-star review (denoting 'outstanding'): "This isn't so much a remake as a masterly re-creation. Not only does it have the drop on the 1969 version, it's the first great movie of 2011".
The film won the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Young Performer (Hailee Steinfeld) and received ten additional nominations in the following categories: Best Film, Best Actor (Jeff Bridges), Best Supporting Actress (Steinfeld), Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup, and Best Score. The ceremony took place on January 14, 2011.
It was nominated for eight British Academy Film Awards: Best Film, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Bridges), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Steinfeld), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design. Roger Deakins won the award for Best Cinematography.
It was nominated for ten Academy Awards, but won none: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor (Bridges), Best Supporting Actress (Steinfeld), Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing. When told of all the nominations, the Coen brothers stated, "Ten seems like an awful lot. We don't want to take anyone else's."
The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on June 7, 2011.