A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the Coen brothers' adaptation of Charles Portis’ novel -- which also inspired the 1969 John Wayne classic -- is impressive and forceful, but it's also full of brutal (and sometimes bloody) gunfight sequences and other violent moments that aren’t appropriate for younger viewers, as well as some language and drinking (one character is perpetually soused). That said, mature teens are likely to feel a kinship with the lead character, 14-year-old Mattie Ross, who faces challenges that would break many adults. They might even learn from her adventure -- and not small-potatoes lessons, either, but ones dealing with loyalty, courage, and determination.
What's the story?
Based on Charles Portis’ novel -- which also inspired the John Wayne movie of the same name -- TRUE GRIT is narrated by Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), whom viewers meet when she’s 14. Her father has died at the hands of the “coward” Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), and she needs someone to bring Chaney back, dead or alive. Her first choice is one-eyed U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), who’s as good at downing liquor as he is at marshaling. Joining them is Texas Ranger LeBeouf (Matt Damon), who’s heavy on patter and earnestness -- making for an unusual (and potent) trio.
Is it any good?
In this Western filled with gorgeous landscapes and action-packed shootouts, the Coen brothers display a vision of a Wild West that is indeed wild -- but also honorable. They went back to Portis’ original text and have transformed it into a work of art that stands on its own, apart and different from the 1969 adaptation. Laconic stretches explode with violence and relax with wit and humor on a stage peopled with extraordinary actors, with Bridges as the master. It’s a true Western, made for both the genre’s connoisseurs and newcomers.
The biggest revelation, besides how hokey-yet-winning Damon can be, is Steinfeld. Her role requires the ability to stand up against two award-winning actors and portray a teen who tackles adult responsibilities fully while both grieving and avenging the loss of a parent -- true grit, in other words -- and she executes perfectly. From start to finish, True Grit plays as it should, and well.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's characters. Are they role models? Are they intended to be? Who's the most admirable character here? The least?
Do you think Mattie is a realistic teen character? For the time period, was she acting her age?
How does this film adhere to (or not) the Western genre’s basic characteristics? How does it compare to other Coen brothers movies?
- In theaters: December 22, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: June 7, 2011
- Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, Josh Brolin, Matt Damon
- Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Western
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of western violence including disturbing images
For kids who love drama and thrills
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.