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True Grit’: What’s Your Take?

Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld star in the Coen Brothers' remake of

Credit: Paramount Classics

Above: Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld star in the Coen Brothers' remake of "True Grit."

We recently talked about the Coen brothers remake of the classic 1969 western "True Grit" on the KPBS Film Club of the Air (I produce that show).

None of our critics liked it much, so I had pretty reasonable expectations going into the film on Christmas day (the Coens' films are often met with high expectations and fiercely loyal fans). I wasn't the only one seeing it over the weekend: "True Grit" had the biggest opening weekend of any Coen brothers film to date.

Perhaps my tempered expectations (or holiday mood) contributed to my experience, but either way, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I thought it was well-acted, the script was terrific, the plotting evenly paced, and the cinematography well done (a beautifully shot courtroom scene where we first meet Rooster Cogburn, played here by Jeff Bridges and made famous by John Wayne, is a standout).

The 14-year-old female protagonist seeking vengeance for her father's death is deftly played by newcomer Hailee Steinfeld. She's a completely engaging heroine and memorable character. And, unlike our Film Club critics, I don't think Jeff Bridges overacts. It's a hefty role with lots of grizzly flourishes, but I found him believable and fun to watch.

I'll concede this isn't one of the Coens best films, but it's still a cut above the majority of crap coming out of Hollywood.

There seems to be a lot of blathering on about why the filmmakers would remake this classic western. Apparently, they loved the book by Charles Portis and wanted to make a "True Grit" that captured the humor of Portis' writing. I saw the film with a friend who has read all of Portis' books and he felt the Coens achieved that goal.

The Coen brothers are sometimes accused of being to snide and making fun of their own characters. I don't agree, though I can see how someone would come to that conclusion. KPBS reporter Tom Fudge and I used to have discussions about this. He thinks the Coen brothers often show contempt for their characters, especially in earlier films like "Fargo." If you share Tom's opinion, I encourage you to see "True Grit." The humor is less Coen brothers and, apparently, more Charles Portis, though the two styles are quite similar.

What do you think of "True Grit"? Where do you think this movie fits in the Coens' body of work?

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