True Grit – 5 stars

True Grit is really near-flawless, hewing very closely to the structure of the prior film.  Some folks may feel that John Wayne’s larger-than-life persona is a bit of a blot in the original, but I always liked his performance, as well as that of a novice actor, Glen Campbell.  For those folks, this film is an upgrade – Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon deliver deft performances that don’t suck the air out of a scene or distract.  This version also replaces many of the laughs for the “grit,” though, thankfully, it is not a dour, bloody replacement (the scenes of the 14 year old Mattie Ross negotiating her father’s affairs are very funny, as is the cross-examination of Rooster Cogburn).  It is also beautifully shot by the Coen brothers.

Finally, I always found Kim Darby annoyingly showy in the original, even though the film was good enough to minimize her excess.  A newcomer (Haley Stanfield) plays her role in the re-make, and she’s just the right mix of earnest, savvy and bitchy, a perfect companion for Bridges and Damon as they search for her father’s killer (Josh Brolin, who has a mere two scenes and almost steals the film).

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