If it weren't for the end credits, one would never have guessed that True Grit had been made by the Coen brothers, for it has less of their cinematic idiosyncrasies than any film they've ever done. And maybe that was the best way to go about it.
Young Mattie Ross (wonderfully played by Hailee Steinfeld) has a blood vendetta against one Tom Chaney for gunning down her father. As determined as she is foolhardy, Mattie hires an acerbic U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to help her track down the felon and bring him to justice, with the aid of a Texas ranger named LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) who also wants to see Chaney hanged, but with more fiscal motivations in mind.
While I do bemoan the film's overall lack of personality (surprising for the famously quirky Coens), I'd be lying if I denied that I had a great time watching it. This is an old-fashioned Western from top to bottom, and depending on how much you enjoy the genre, that may suit you just fine. The tradition of a group of lovable characters (if somewhat rough around the edges) on a rollicking adventure always brought a smile to my face in the films of Budd Boedecker and John Ford, and the Coens' adaptation of the Charles Portis novel is similarly delightful, even if artistically unremarkable.
It is a lovingly made picture, with detailed period sets and costumes from Jess Gonchar and Mary Zophres, a fine score from Carter Burwell, and elegant photography from the one-and-only Roger Deakins.
Nominations are probably coming for some of the craftspeople mentioned above, and also one for Haille Steinfeld, but I don't buy that Supporting Actress bullshit the studio is plugging. The role is a leading role, plain and simple. If she does indeed earn a Supporting Actress nomination (as some of us have been predicting since spring), it'll be a simultaneous triumph and embarrassment. I'm also hesitant on the Best Picture nomination so many see coming. Maybe I'm wrong, but somehow I don't quite see the Academy going for this.
*** out of ****