True Grit (2010) | Review by Hannah Brooks-Motl
We do not recollect a more peaceable Christmas season, here among the desert and the dust, the familial relations in fecund repose—Christmas eve supper was a feasting of chips and beer, and by the nooning service of our Savior we were much obliged to hear from the good reverend that the infant Jesus had indeed been birthed of his virgin mother in order that we may be “happy.” What does this happiness also require but a sojourn at the cinema? Thus we struck abroad, down the byways towards the hulk of the New Mexican Cinemark. There, in that hallowed chamber, True Grit made us believe in ways we did not foresee as possible—after this long and toilsome stretch of film peering upon which we have embarked—that indeed a movie might stretch some great and noisome divide between its own world and the petty meannesses of our own. That is to say, we were welcomed most fulsomely into the quilt and pattern of analogy, its cozy folds and occasional scratch at our blinkered faces. While we admit to spending much time in concentration upon the smooth facial planes Hailee Steinfeld, attempting to figure the how and why her quest to avenge her father might feature akin to our own gallop towards the poetic, nearing the cinematic end we switched allegiance to the buzzard features of Jeff Bridges as he carted our ailing ingénue through the swirls of hope and high-plains stars and odds. This, surely, made much of our metaphor.
But let us pause a moment to reflect deeper. For it is the nature of this film to cause us to question the true effect of any of our life’s events. For what changes us, and how, and why, is a mystery, the edges of which we may only know we scoot around. The true power of life is that it lies in retrospect—what of the moments’ power as they occur? Do we know that which changes us? And at the moment of our changing, what is it that moves, or loosens, takes flight through the veins of our very blood and continues on pumping through the remainder of our days? True Grit gives us fine actors, such as Joshua Brolin and Jeffrey Bridges, and fine dialogue, such as Mathew Damon confessing “I thought to kiss you though you are sick, and very young, and unattractive to boot,” and makes us believe in the ever-lastingness of their power over its heroine. The final shot of her ineluctable form swishing through high grasses, admitting “Life skits away,” did in fact strike us a perfect, and perfectly true. For life, my friends, is episodic: some episodes do damage and thrill forever. We cannot help but to carry these moments like viruses, or venom, inside us. When they bloom, the world—as from horseback, at night, with the huffing of age in our ear—appears unalterable in its strange beauty, unforgivably honest in its sad singleness.