Christmas came early for me this year, I saw an advance screening of the new Coen brothers film, True Grit.
You expect exacting attention to costume and production design for any period film, but it is the writing; the measured, straightforward language of Joel and Ethan Coen's screenplay that transports the audience to the harsh and bleak terrain of post-civil war Arkansas during reconstruction. The dialogue between the characters is uncompromisingly direct, so deliciously sharp, it distinguishes itself immediately from the 1969 film version that starred John Wayne. Of course the earlier True Grit is a classic, but a horse of a different color.
14-year old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) commissions hard-bitten U.S. Marshall Reuben "Rooster" Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to capture the hired hand that murdered her father. There's nothing cute about their journey, and nothing glossy in the telling. The title refers to the challenges we endure defining our 'grit.' Whether motivated by greed, revenge or redemption, the underlying message is that the end experience, the defining realization, is always different than expected.