I’m going to give a spoiler, of sorts: Mattie Ross, the fourteen year old hero of the film, does not get raped.
Am I the only person who entered this movie, with the dread of suffering though a scene where a young innocent gets victimized? I don’t know quite why I was fearing/expecting this to happen, except for:
1) A bunch of men in the wilderness + one girl + no rules = UH OH, and
2) I was on a date.
Nothing could take the wind out of a fun evening out like a re-reenactment of sexual trauma. (It’s worth nothing that the last “movie date” I was on consisted of going to see “Antichrist” (my date’s choice, everybody), and if you aren’t familiar with the film, suffice to say there is a climactic scene where William DeFoe’s wife smashes his “Willy DeFoe” with a two by four, ONSCREEN. So I have been to a mood killer or two in my day. You also may be saying: “that movie came out some time ago, that is for serious the last movie date you were on?” Yes, it is, okay? Can we please move on?)
All right, so what DOES happen?
A young girl named Mattie Ross has recently learned of her father’s murder, shot by a man named Tom Chaney. She travels to the town he was killed in, and vows that she will catch Chaney. She finds a one-eyed U.S. marshal named Rooster Cogburn (which sounds like the set-up to a dirty joke) and asks him to track her fathers killer. But Rooster is a crusty, spittin’, outhouse-monopolizing cuss with no time for half-orphans! Everyone in this movie is a solid actor, but Bridges is KILLING it. I love the guy, but sometimes he can go on Bridges Autopilot, which involves a lot of lip-smacking and aloof charm. (See “K-Pax” for an example, or listen to my impersonation of “Bridges Autopilot”:)
Mattie starts stalking Rooster, trying to get him to take the job. She is totally “Swimfan”ing him. (“I saw on Foursquare that you checked into the old saloon.” –Mattie Ross, 2011. Somebody get on writing that screenplay.) Eventually she gets Rooster (and Frontier Days Edition Matt Damon) to stop sleeping on a potato pile long enough to track the killer.
If you are a fan of actors in hats, sweeping vistas that are cover-ready for Pretty Movies Magazine, and dialogue that sounds like everyone swallowed a Mark Twain novel, then you are going to love True Grit. I really prefer the “old-timey” Coen Brothers movies (No Country For Old Men being the exception), and am also a fan of westerns that drive home how miserable it was to be alive then. You could never get clean, and everyone was getting food poisoning, or dust lung, or the child-having-knock-me-outs.
Dentistry was also an issue, which is maybe why everyone seems to have something wrong with their mouth. Honestly, this movie could’ve been titled “True Speech Impediments”. I heard the Coen Brahs started every acting workshop by jamming various things into the actors mouths, and telling them to “dig deep” for their motivation. Here’s a guide to what they used on their cast to get it “just right”:
Actor: Hailee Steinfeld (Mattie Ross)
Impediment level: Light
Used in mouth: Semi-popped popcorn kernels
Actor: Matt Damon (LaBoeuf)
Impediment level: Moderate to heavy
Used in mouth: A mixture of kale, jerked beef and grape Now And Laters
Actor: Jeff Bridges (Rooster Cogburn)
Impediment level: Heavy
Used in mouth: Old cereal, fair-trade cotton
Actor: Josh Brolin (Tom Chaney)
Impediment level: Very heavy
Used in mouth: Chewable horse tranquilizers
Also, on another level of speech craziness, one of the movies “villains” (as “villain” as the amoral universe of Coen brother movies get) speaks in nothing but animal sounds. Even then, the untamed frontiers needed a Police Academy-style Michael Winslow sidekick.
Although this movie is great, no movie is perfect. Let’s go over the pros and cons.
PROS: Fat Matt Damon, people wearing whole animals as hats, no rape.
CONS: No John Goodman cameo, no big reveal that Bridges has a treasure map hidden in his eye socket.
FINAL GRADE: EIGHT GRITS!