I’m a New Mexico girl. There’s nothing I like better than a movie filmed in New Mexico, especially if it’s filled with long shots of amazing vistas, great acting, and that inexplicable quirkiness that seems to accompany working here. I’m thinking Silverado, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Cheyenne Social Club, Sunshine Cleaning Company, No Country for Old Men, and of course, Crazy Heart. I said this in a previous post http://www.ilovenewmexicoblog.com/?s=Crazy+Heart – If they gave out Academy Awards for locations, I think New Mexico would win every time.
When you set a movie in New Mexico, recruit actors like Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin, bring in a surprisingly talented newcomer like Hailee Steinfeld and then let the Coen brother direct it, you can bet that it’s not only going to be entertaining – it’s going to be your favorite New Mexico movie of all time. At least that’s how it worked for me when I saw the new True Grit. (See video at http://www.truegritmovie.com/#/video)
I’m also a girl raised in a Southern Baptist household. If you’re not familiar with gospel tunes, if you don’t in fact subconsciously hum them to yourself all day long because they were the music of your childhood, you’re going to miss one of the great subtleties of the Coen Brothers’ version of True Grit. “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” plays throughout the film, along with several other church tunes, and this almost unnoticed background gives the movie an completely unexpected tone.
Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord and Rooster Cogburn, and the players in this film move forward through the breathtaking New Mexico landscape with a certainty that they’re in the right. This time around the movie is told from the point of view of little Maddie Ross, who turns out to be not so little after all, possessing a steadfast courage most of us could only hope for at some point in our lives. Her faith in right and her Marshall Cogburn is unmoving. It’s almost religious.
I’m sure I’m stating the obvious. I loved the movie, I loved Jeff Bridges being a drunk, albeit a reliable one, I loved Matt Damon (who was so convincing as a laughably pompous Texas Ranger that I didn’t realize it was Damon until the credits rolled), I loved Josh Brolin’s pathologically crazed killer, and I loved Maddie and her braids and her self-reliance and determination to see her father’s killer brought to justice.
(I didn’t love so much the rattlesnake pit scene – I kept hoping that they’d just leave that out this time around. I screamed and embarrassed Johanna when I saw it coming. . .I can’t say more without giving it away, though.)
I’m 50 this year, so I saw the original in 1969 at the Odean Theater in Tucumcari with my Daddy. At our house, John Wayne was sort of a god – revered for a number of western-icon-traits, not the least of which was that he bore an amazing resemblance to my Grandpa Terry in his later years. I liked the original – I liked that Rooster Cogburn was tough but kind to a little girl, I had a crush on Glen Campbell for years afterward, and I thought Kim Darby was fun to watch (see trailer for the original at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tN-j4GDqjv4), although I had recurring nightmares for years about being thrown into a rattlesnake pit.
But this new version. It was one of those movies that I left immediately wanting to see it again.
I don’t think the odds are with True Grit to win the Oscar on Sunday night, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed anyway. And I’m holding out for the day when the location gets its own awards ceremony.
Barry Pepper, the actor playing the notorious Ned Pepper in this film said this of New Mexico, “If I could, I would move there. This is one place where old and new worlds can coexist.” I get to live here, and he’s right. New Mexico is a new place every day, but it’s also historic and reliably beautiful in an unconventional way. Thanks to the Coen Brothers, the rest of you now get to see it through our eyes.