“True Grit” (2010)

Having recently watched the John Wayne original (which I totally forgot to review last year), I made it out to see the Coen Brothers’ remake of True Grit. It did not disappoint. In fact, it entertained mightily. The clever, stylized dialogue is perfectly suited to the Coen’s directing. Jeff Bridges and the girl are especially great. I love that character as a role model for girls; she is so smart and tough! Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper have little screen time, but steal every scene they’re in.

Question: Why did Carter Burwell base the score about the hymn “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” when that song is tied so distinctly (in my mind, at least) to Night of the Hunter? Did he want to reclaim it to less creepy effect?

7 Responses to ““True Grit” (2010)”

  1. Steph Says:

    I saw this with my in-laws over the holidays and REALLY enjoyed it a lot. I was not expecting to like it since Westerns aren’t my thing, but it was wonderful. Loved the girl so very much, and thought the movie struck a good balance between funny and tender. I would like to read the book, but having watched the trailer for the original film, have no interest in that.

  2. girldetective Says:

    Part of what was good about the 1969 movie was that John Wayne was doing a sendup of his own legend, and deliberately playing mean, drunk and fat in a non-vain way that had a lot of humanity and humility about it. The girl was also good in that film; they make for good compare/contrasts. I’ve heard good things about the book too, so it’s on my radar!

  3. SFP Says:

    Back when I was a kid (and had a subscription to Western Horseman), the Brolins had a ranch where they raised Appaloosas. I’ve wondered if the Ap Jeff Bridges was riding in True Grit was actually one of theirs.

    I lurved this movies. And it stayed close to the book, which is of course wonderful, too.

  4. Inquirer Says:

    I grew up on John Wayne. Literally. I remember my dad’s birthday many years ago … the day he found out that The Duke had died. I am not sure how many other times I remember seeing my dad cry.

    My husband can quote Blazing Saddles. I can quote john Wayne. True Grit. Chisum. The Cowboys. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence. All favorites. (What was it in your last post about “geek-girl” cred? Cause I think I just lost mine.)

    So I have to say I am a little wary of seeing one of my all time favorites without one of my all time favorite actors. Jeff Bridges is great and all, but he is NO john Wayne.

    By the way, I have heard this adaption is more true to the book than the original movie was.

  5. girldetective Says:

    Inq, one of my husband’s favorite movies is Rio Bravo! I don’t think loving John Wayne is inconsistent with geek-girl cred.

  6. Janise Says:

    I recently saw this film and really liked it as well. It has been years since I’ve seen the original version so I couldn’t really do a point by point comparison, but I did notice a few changes in the plot, like the outcome of La Boeuf, and Mattie’s arm.
    I am so glad that you mentioned “Night of the Hunter” in relation to “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”! I wondered if I was the only person who remembered that hymn as a very threatening element. To be honest, it put me off a little when the full song was heard in the credits, because it took me out of the “True Grit” experience a bit. It is a good question whether the hymn was deliberately chosen for “redemptive” purposes. I hadn’t thought about that aspect. I imagined that they simply wanted a song that would sound authentic and spare in keeping with the tone of the film.

  7. girldetective Says:

    Janise, after your comment I did some poking around to see what others were saying, and found several people had a fairly simplistic reading of the song and took it to mean that Rooster’s arms carried her to safety, so she was in the arms of grace. I think the Coens wouldn’t agree with that reading. This op talks about how complicated it is, but still seems to simplify it by the end:


    But after more searching, I found on Burwell’s blog that while he wanted hymns, Leaning wasn’t his choice, it was the Coens’:

    Ethan had the same inkling - the music should be based on hymns of the period. We tried to get more specific - Protestant hymns certainly - Presbyterian most likely. The one the Coens referenced was “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” known to us by its use in the film “The Night of the Hunter.” My preference was for hymns that leant themselves to a call-and-response structure. I thought this would nicely mirror Mattie’s lone voice echoing in the wilderness. I was also disinclined to use a hymn well-known for its use in a previous film….

    Despite my ill ease about the familiarity of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” it remained the top choice for the opening and closing of the film. It’s hard to know how much of the Coens’ feelings were based on its reference to “The Night of the Hunter,” but I know that they do love reference. It gives something as semantically amorphous as music a depth of meaning and purpose. It’s not unlike Tarantino’s use of pre-existing music in his films.