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Should the Coen Brothers have left 'True Grit' alone?
The original film won John Wayne an Oscar. Was a remake really necessary?
Jeff Bridges stars as Rooster Cogburn, the roll for which John Wayne won his lone Oscar.
Jeff Bridges stars as Rooster Cogburn, the roll for which John Wayne won his lone Oscar.
Paramount Pictures
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he Coen Brothers' True Grit, a darkly comic revenge Western starring Jeff Bridges, hits theaters today. A 1969 version of the film featured John Wayne in a role for which he won the Best Actor Oscar. Naturally, critics are comparing the two films, both of which are based on a 1968 Charles Portis novel. Did the movie really need to be remade, Coen-style? (Watch the True Grit trailer)

An update was in order: "Even the most beloved classics can sometimes use a little sprucing up," says Ann Hornaday in The Washington Post. Such is the case with the original True Grit — a "Technicolor extravaganza" that featured puzzling snowy peaks in Arkansas. With the Coen brothers' version, True Grit gets the "care, consideration, and classy retooling that Charles Portis's novel probably always deserved."
"Movie review: Coen brothers' True Grit is polished and entertaining"

It is better than the original: The Coen brothers' film hews closer to the Charles Portis novel, says Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times, and that's in its favor. The book's 14-year-old narrator, Mattie Ross, has been compared to Huck Finn — "it's that good" — and the Coens' film is "superior"  and "broadly entertaining." It doesn't soften the book's ending, like the 1969 version did, but rather restores the original's "bleak, elegiac conclusion."
"Movie review: True Grit"

It is good, but not as good as its true inspiration: The Coen brothers "repeatedly invoke a superior movie" says J. Hoberman in The Village Voice. I'm not talking about the original True Grit, which is in "every way inferior," but rather the 1955 Robert Mitchum classic, The Night of the Hunter, whose hymn, "Leaning on Everlasting Arms," is repeatedly featured in the new True Grit. Comparisons aside, the Coen brothers' version "is a highly enjoyable yarn, stocked with pungent bushwa and a full panoply of frontier bozos."
"Old souls get a second life in True Grit and The Illusionist"

There is no comparing the new and old: "The point of True Grit is not to invite comparisons," says Rossiter Drake at 7X7 SF. Jeff Bridges doesn't try to fill John Wayne's boots — he offers his own take on the role of craggy U.S. Marshall Reuben "Rooster" Cogburn. "The Coens aspire to carve out their own legend," and the result is a "worthy addition" to the Western genre.
"No Country for Old Cowboys: The Coens reimagine the classic Western True Grit"

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