New review – Forget the Dude: this is a woman’s story

In an age when girl avengers are preferred to adults, 14-year-old Mattie Ross evolves admirably from ferocious teen to formidable woman, says Taraneh Ghajar Jerven. But why bother creating a 3D character if she’s omitted from the previews?

Warning: this review contains spoilers

True Grit is a testament to the power of remakes. In this archetypal Western, a teenage girl, a fat one-eyed marshall and a vainglorious Texas Ranger embark on a mission to avenge the girl’s murdered father.

Already nominated for 10 Oscars, True Grit is set to dominate at the award shows in 2011. The Coen brothers’ film is a based on the 1968 novel by Charles Portis, which was adapted into a film of the same name in 1969. Directed by Henry Hathaway and starring John Wayne, the 1969 version of True Grit was a box office success, lulling the Vietnam-weary US public into an appreciation of their country’s simpler past. But in the new True Grit, the Coen brothers don’t aim to emulate the original, they aim to surpass.

The trailers mainly flog her male co-stars, but the Coen brothers’ triumph is based on their protagonist, the 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), out for justice and possibly blood. In the 1969 film, John Wayne’s super-sized on-screen persona eclipsed co-star Kim Darby, who played Mattie. In 2010, however, when it was possible to make a Western without the Duke, the Coen brothers stayed true to the novel’s structure, where Mattie’s story is central and the men play second fiddle.

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