I estimated the average age of those in the packed theater to be around 55. "Lots of John Wayne fans here tonight," I whispered to Mrs. Film Geek as the movie began. "I wonder if they'll be disappointed. This Cohen Brothers movie is supposed to be closer to the novel than the Duke's movie."
"Duke who?" she asked.
The 1969 flick was an important one to me. It's one of those movies I shared with my Dad, although we shared it in silence, watching it on TV while sitting across the room from each other. Dad loved him some John Wayne; the increased rocking in his chair and extra shake in his crossed leg during that reins-in-his-mouth scene gave it away.
Otherwise, I might never have known. We didn't talk a whole lot about flicks.
My crossed legs shook a lot during this re-telling of the Charles Portis novel. The Cohen Brothers have made many of the best movies of the past 25 years (with the exceptions, of course, of The Ladykillers and Burn After Reading) by telling compelling stories about the frailties of being human. The brothers take on this western is no different: their genius ability to write dialogue that's as interesting for it's rhythm and cadence as it is for it's content is here, as is the common theme of characters being transformed by the events they experience. The 2010 True Grit, however, is a more visually stunning movie than others in their filmography. Several scenes in this movie were emotionally moving not for the spoken word or the acting, but for the imagery and cinematography. It was incredibly powerful.
Jeff Bridges is terrific in the role of Cogburn, and Matt Damon delivers the Cohen-lingo perfectly in the role formerly acted by Glen Campbell. But it's little known Hailee Steinfeld as Matti who draws the audience in. She makes us invest in her; we feel for her, care about her, and worry about her. That empathy lets us appreciate and care for Cogburn, because despite the fact he's a drunk and a reprobate, he cares about Mattie too.
Near the end of the movie, during a highly emotional scene in which Cogburn shows he's still able to care about someone other than himself, I noticed Mrs. Film Geek wiping the tears from her eyes.
"Enjoying the movie?" I whispered.
She leaned over, and said: "The girl is incredible. I love her."
I stopped shaking my legs and reached for her hand. I knew we'd talk about it in detail on the way home. We have in common a love for movies, but even more a love for talking together about why we love movies.
And I smiled.