Off-List: True Grit
The first off-List movie of 1969 is “True Grit”. I have never seen it before and the only things I knew about it going in was its famous, recent remake and that Ranker considers it the second best movie of 1969. I guess this made me more than a little curious to watch this movie.
It was, frankly, a bit disappointing.
“True Grit” is a movie about a girl, Mattie (Kim Darby) whose father got killed by a low-life caller Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey). She sets out to find him and bring him to justice. To that end she hires a Marshall, Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne), and, much against his will, insists on riding along. They are joined by a Texas ranger, La Boeuf (Glen Campbell) who wants to take Chaney to Texas. Chaney has joined a gang led by Ned Pepper (Robert Duvall) and so they are two men and a woman up against an entire gang of outlaws.
This is very much a vehicle for John Wayne to do his usual things. To be tough and grandfatherly, dunk and just, trigger happy and jovial. Essentially your standard John Wayne. The Academy apparently thought he did that so well that they gave him an Oscar for it. If there is nothing better in 69 this will indeed be a thin year.
John Wayne being what he is, the main character here is Mattie. It is cool that she wants to join the man hunt, but this girl has so many annoying qualities that any sympathy I had for her soon wore out. She is preachy and very penny-pinching, lacks a sense of the situation and is practically useless in the field. She is the kind of person you least want to bring along on such an expedition. You may then ask, why is she then joining the chase? The answer may well be as comical relief.
See, “True Grit” is trying hard to be a comedy, or at least have some substantially comical elements. Bringing this girl along for a manhunt she is not suited for is such a comical element. So is Rooster drinking with his cat and Chinese friend. Problem is just that Mattie is not funny, she is annoying, and her preachy manner made her tiresome very fast.
The other main element of the movie is the Western theme of hunting down outlaws. It is okay, but nothing special and although it is a long movie, this part of it is fairly short in order to set up a relationship between Rooster and Mattie. The hardship of the chase is also played down and frankly there is not much of a search. They ride into the territory, stumble upon Nep Peppers gang and shoot it out. Of course, Mattie gets in trouble, which makes things a bit complicated, but nothing they cannot handle.
I thought it would be tougher and grittier, but this is 69 and not 2019, and so this is a sanitized version of the West. I could also have managed without the comedy. For me “Western” and “comedy” does not merge very well. And finally, I could really have used a less annoying character than Mattie.
Well, I got my curiosity settled and that is that.