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    Current rating: 4.8 (36 ratings)

    Fr. Barron comments on "True Grit" (SPOILERS)

Derek Beningfield
Thank you, Father Barron. I saw both versions of "True Grit" about one week apart; the original on New Years day, and the new version only five days later. It was an excellent movie. Thank you for the insight.
1/13/2011 1:43:39 AM
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So glad you agreed with me on this wonderful film..grew up on a Texas ranch and loved the historical accuracy and felt it showed that a large part of Mattie (more than one arm)was murdered along with her innocent father...I believe she and Rooster's grit stopped all the outlaws from more murders of the innocent and saved lives.. (not to mention killing a lot of rattle-snakes!!)
I would have liked an ending with Mattie and her bravery and brains working as a federal judge in court...God Bless!!
1/13/2011 10:02:00 AM
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Great review!I only see pictures recommended by certain people.There is nothing as good as a great western.
1/13/2011 8:51:26 PM
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michael jaffray king
Thank God that He has two arms...
Thank God that one of His arms is Mercy!!
Great review!!!
I will definitely try to see the movie.
1/14/2011 2:05:53 AM
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Mark Kirby
(To mine a little further the vein Father excavates in his review.)  At Catholic Exchange, responding to a transcript of the review I commented, in part:

"With what I got of Rooster in his courtroom testimony early in the movie – a lawman near exhausted by evil, a man less than reluctant to use deadly force with a weakness for the drink – I confess a sliver of surprise watching him carry Mattie through the night to her salvation. I was stirred by his action; my feeling was it was more than grit that made him: I saw love. I’m inclined to think he saw Mattie’s soul – a tough one kin to his own – and it drew a father’s love out of him. We did, as you say, see his mercy and his graciousness; did love make him more than he was?"

Because I wanted to know what was on RC’s gravestone, I saw the movie again; I was glad for the excuse. It’s one work of art that invites contemplation. Just how saturated in religion is this movie?  Well, when the blurry light that begins it resolves into a coherent image of the murdered Frank Ross, the glass in the porch-doors that light is passing through is leaded in a cruciform pattern.  

My own history makes me especially susceptible to themes of redemption between estranged father and child; and I think this story, of an orphaned girl and a lone-wolf, long-gone father who find themselves working each other's salvation, is a particularly rich fleshing out of them: as can happen with Grace, father and child joined and healed at the rupture.

If you take True Grit as something of a salvation parable, you might also see RC as not only a father-figure but moving through shadow-images of the Son's Work - perhaps first when he descends under the earth to pull Mattie from a nest of serpents and to pay them with death and to draw off their deadly poison into himself. 

Is it a given that what most moves me you in a work is where you search for its meaning? Nothing else in either version moved me as did Rooster's night ride in the latter one - Mattie, hardly knowing she's alive or dead, in his arms, under a black sky alive with stars that is our image of God's Watchful Providence.  

And there I find it instructive to contrast the final pictures we have of Rooster from the two movies.  If I remember right, the first ends on a note of triumph, the fat old man mounted on his horse and airborne, clearing a high fence, in the freeze-frame of a treasured memory - a moment that makes you laugh with pleasure.  In the later version, we last see Rooster a spent old man, his horse dead, too gone to even stand on his feet, discharging his sidearm a last time, not to do violence, to cry help.  When, exhausted, he says "I have become an old man," I hear a faint "It is consummated."  He has given all he has to give. Death is too close.

In that deep night and in the one-winged, tough old bird Mattie becomes there are the hard costs of redemption, and the permanent damage evil has of us even after we’ve healed.  Past a certain age, no one can look at himself and not see both damage and healing.  

Although we spend most of the time of the story in the exhilarating company of the eager and efficient girl Mattie, and we share her pleasure testing her strength in the vengeance-quest, it's the old, lone woman who tells the tale; and she's had a lifetime to tally up the costs of her young and terrific and terrible adventure. Perhaps Mattie means to give us a sense of their weight by her remark early in her telling that "...there is nothing free except the grace of God."    

A mission together made Mattie and Rooster blood-kin; it is a justice and a mercy that old Mattie repays Marshall Cogburn, making herself a part of God's own work: at his death giving the old man a place to come home to, and his right name, Reuben, and one companion soul at least who sees him with affection and clear: REUBEN COGBURN; RESOLUTE MARSHALL.
1/17/2011 4:06:16 PM
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Rob Westenberger
Great review Father. You mentioned the movie Fargo. I saw it and mostly enjoyed it. I think if your going to speak of the moral lessons of a movie you should also give a warning to those men struggling with pornography addictions and trying to avoid occasions of sin, such as the 2 prostitute scenes in Fargo. God bless your work.
1/17/2011 10:51:14 PM
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Wow! What a review! Had no interest in this movie before, but it's now a "must see" for me.
Am also interested in seeing some of the previous works of these Directors.
1/18/2011 4:54:46 AM
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Chris Hrycenko
Fa. I don't know, but is really far to say that every death in the movie is the girl's fault. She is very smart for her age, but I think that we have to remember that she is only a little girl and does not know the true effects of one's actions.
1/18/2011 2:00:29 PM
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Fantastic review, Father Barron!! The sometimes fatal yet always disfiguring implications of unyielding revenge wrapped in the cloak of justice.

Great Movie!
1/18/2011 7:58:24 PM
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This really is dead on. I saw the film with my best friend. I am a huge fan of the original and the new one lives up to the name. I never would have picked up on the ending symbolism had you not pointed it out, Father. I think the scene when Rooster carries the girl through the night is a very touching scene amid a film seeped with violence and dirt. "Fill your hands!"
1/20/2011 9:22:43 PM
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In the movie, as in life , it is necessary to bring murders to justice to protect the community. Maddie's emotional response was amplified because as she said "the town did not care to pursue".. As I recall in the movie, each of the members of the outlaw gang was offered the option of surrender to the marshal and/or ranger to face charges in court and refused by pulling out their weapons..Maddie was a true hero with her drunken marshal..
1/21/2011 9:41:00 AM
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FR. Great review! I too was left with much of what you said except that in most westerns in which someone is snake bit, the person trying to save the person cuts the bite with one straight cut not two as was done in the movie, which brought to mind a crucifix.
1/26/2011 3:08:37 AM
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Just watched the film 2x. I see no compassion by RC. He exhibits none to a young man murdered trying to assist in their search. Au contraire, it is Mattie who wishes to carry out the 'poor soul's' dying wish.

Curious that the Coens cast a Jewish actress in the role as Mattie. Is there some kind of conceit taking place here? The snake pit into which she falls resembles the holocaust monument at Auschwitz. A drunken Gentile assists her in the shape of the ageing RC after she has 'awakened' the snakes.

Are the Coens warning their fellow Jews that the constant pursuit of enemies is dangerous? Their only friend now 'grown old'? That they risking hurting themselves and ending up totally isolated?

Do the Coens sense that the snakes are now awake?
1/28/2011 2:26:21 AM
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More on True Grit.

Check out the "Ezekiel" reference at the start of the movie. Mattie says this, "I felt like Ezekiel". Where is there a famous quote from Ezekiel to be found in modern Jewish iconography?

In Fargo, the Coens claim in the opening credits that this is a "True Story". In "The Big Lebowski" they present tumble weed and cowboy music from the range then cut to modern L.A.

In True Grit Ned Pepper is played by an actor called "Pepper". In other words, they play with the audience in the opening moments of their films. Why? The key to True Grit is that the unknown actress playing Mattie Ross has a overtly Jewish name. From that moment this "remake" starts to makes sense.
1/30/2011 6:43:14 AM
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Thank you,Father. I saw the movie and thought that in true Coen fashion they would have ended the movie when the doctor comes out on the porch with the lantern, leaving the audience to think about Rooster's transformation and knowing that Maddie lived as she is telling the story. Your ideas go much deeper and give another layer for me to think about.
1/30/2011 2:35:55 PM
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1) Listen to the 2nd speech of the men to be hanged – is this an accusation? If so, who is being accused?
2) Mattie also chooses the second man from the list presented her by the man who oversees the hangings.
3) Watch the way the visual quote from “The Searchers” is subverted by the Coens as Rooster fires ineffectively into a mineshaft – the Coens “do not like” the values which Ford and Wayne represent and belittle them – cinematically. They don’t want the Tea Party returning the USA to those values.
4) Mattie constantly threatens not with ‘The Law’ but with “lawyers”.
5) Mattie cracks the Jewish gag to Ned Pepper – “I know a good lawyer”.
6) Mattie is the most verbally dexterous in the film and outwits her superiors in business transactions.
7) The black stable boy admits that his boss now dislikes Mattie (having been outwitted by her in business).
8) Mattie calls ‘Frank James’ “trash” for not showing her respect despite her handicap.
9) Mattie is a victim and the final scene recalls Schindler’s list as she pay homage to the righteous.
10) Rooster is “too old and fat” to climb a tree but bounds athletically into the snake pit to kill Mattie’s enemies - useful
11) The lantern represents Ellis Island.
12) She is unattractive, isolated and alone just as modern Israel is but is determined to carry on and will not be “cut down”.
1/31/2011 5:29:44 AM
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Thank you again for another great review. I am curious about your thoughts on "The Rite"
2/1/2011 6:25:40 PM
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