True Grit Parent Guide
Like the cowboys who ride the open range, the Western looks to be a thing of the past. And this movie won't do much to revive the genre, at least for family viewers.
Parent Movie Review
It has been a long time since I saw the original True Grit starring John Wayne as the drunken, eye-patched-wearing US Marshal ‘Rooster’ Cogburn and country western singer Glen Campbell as the smug Texas Ranger named La Boeuf. But from what I remember, the 1969 film didn’t gush (as in blood) with the kind of content the Coen brothers have put in their version.
In the 2010 adaptation, Jeff Bridges stars as the snarling, liquor guzzling, one-eyed Rooster who would just as gladly shoot the criminals he’s trailing than haul them back to face a court of law. After being questioned about his trigger-happy ways in a trial, the unconventional lawman is approached by the precocious 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld).
By Mattie’s own admission, her mother is illiterate, barely able to add or put three letters together. Her father was a horse trader. So none of that explains the young teen’s university level vocabulary. (Many of the characters, including criminals, use poetic prose.) She also has an uncanny grasp of legislation. With that she manages to confound a local businessman and coerce him into buying horses he doesn’t want by threatening him with several points of law.
Mattie wants to hire Rooster to track down the man, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), who killed her father and stole his gold. With the tenacity of a bloodhound she badgers the drunkard until he relents. However when the day comes to set out for Indian country where Tom was last seen, Rooster teams up with a cocky, reward-seeking Texas Ranger named LaBouef (Matt Damon) who is also on Tom’s trail and takes off before Mattie is awake.
Not to be robbed of her chance to exact justice, the feisty girl catches up with the two lawmen and joins the pursuit. Except for Cogburn’s incessant use of alcohol, the frequent depiction of smoking and a mass hanging, True Grit could almost qualify as a family film at this point, at least for teens.
But once the group crosses the river, the violence begins. Not at all deterred by the mores of society, Rooster shoots at anyone who crosses him. Other characters are equally uncivilized. Trying to stop his injured partner from squealing on a group of thieves, one man cuts off the victim’s fingers before stabbing him. Rooster reacts by shooting the man in the head. (Blood splatters across the marshal’s face.) But the murders don’t end there. By the time Mattie finally stumbles upon Tom, there are plenty of corpses lying frozen on the trail. (In a seeming attempt to keep a PG-13 rating, the filmmakers rein in the use of profanities and sexual depictions in order to include more violence.) Unfortunately the cold conditions have hardened Mattie as well. Less interested in seeing Tom hang for his crime, she appears eager to mete out her own justice, Rooster-style, than let the lawbreaker have his day in front of a judge.
Like the cowboys who ride the open range, the "Western" looks to be a thing of the past, rarely employed in Hollywood. And this movie won’t do much to revive the genre, at least for family viewers. Though Mattie is determined to find her father’s killer, it is a resolve that eventually hardens her from a garrulous girl into a brusque, glowering woman. She may have True Grit, but if this is what it looks like, it sure isn’t pretty.Directed by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen. Starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Josh Brolin. Running time: 110 minutes. Theatrical release December 22, 2010. Updated July 17, 2017
Rating & Content Info
Why is True Grit rated PG-13? True Grit is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some intense sequences of western violence including disturbing images.
Violence: The film contains frequent portrayals of shootings, hangings and corpses. Bloody gunfire injuries are seen, along with a character whose face is splattered with blood after he shoots a man in the head. One man has his fingers cut off before being stabbed. (The bloody stumps are seen on the table.) Characters talk about men who were tortured in various ways before being killed.A female teen is spanked and hit with a switch. She is later kidnapped, thrown to the ground and threatened with a knife at her throat. Decaying bodies are shown. A character is roped and dragged behind a horse. A man has blood on his face after biting through his tongue. A young girl shoots a man in the stomach and later fires on him again. A rattlesnake bites a character. A horse is shot. A character has her hand sliced with a knife to help remove poison. Characters are hit and beaten.
Sexual Content: A man admits his desire to kiss a young girl.
Language: The script contains a handful of mild profanities and several terms of Deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A girl rolls cigarettes for a man. Numerous characters frequently smoke cigarettes or pipes. Characters drink on several occasions. One man is repeatedly depicted as being drunk.
Page last updated July 17, 2017
True Grit Parents' Guide
What educational opportunities might Mattie have had in a small frontier town? How likely is it that she would have such an in depth grasp of legal knowledge? What different attitudes about the law do Rooster and LaBoeuf have? How do they each feel about their roles as officers of the law?
Do you think Rooster Cogburn uses his position as a US Marshal to justify a thirst for killing? Does he experience any consequences for his "shoot on sight" approach to justice?
What skills did a tracker need in order to follow a criminal? How difficult might it have been to find someone in the wilderness?
The most recent home video release of True Grit movie is June 7, 2011. Here are some details…
True Grit releases to home video (Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo Pack) on June 7, 2011, with the following bonus extras:
- Matties True Grit
- From Bustles to BuckskinDressing for the 1880s
- Re-Creating Fort Smith
- The Cast
- Colts, Winchesters & Remingtons: The Guns of a Post-Civil War Western
- Charles PortisThe Greatest Writer Youve Never Heard Of
- The Cinematography of True Grit
- Theatrical Trailer
Related home video titles:
While violent depictions of war and death are also found in The Alamo, this film follows the courageous final stand of a group of Texans during an assault on their fort. A young military man who is more interested in poetry than warfare receives four white feathers (a sign of cowardice) from his friends in the 1939 film The Four Feathers. The film was remade in 2003 and stars Heath Ledger as the unwilling soldier. Zorro is another western figure who found his way onto the big screen in the 1940’s film The Mark of Zorro, the 1998 production The Mask of Zorro and the 2005 movie The Legend of Zorro.