The obscurity of some films is unfair, but True Grit '78 deserves it
If you were prompted to think of Rooster Cogburn or "True Grit", you would most likely think either of John Wayne or Jeff Bridges. My experience after this film suggests that this shouldn't change. The memorable Western protagonist is played this time by Warren Oates. He'd only live a few years after making this film, but his filmography is full of well-known titles, like "In the Heat of the Night" and "Badlands". I think he may be one of those actors, like Lee Van Cleef, who is best suited to supporting roles, as he simply can't pull off the character. In the film he looks more like Jeff Bridges than John Wayne, sporting a grey beard with the characteristic eyepatch, although he lacks Cogburn's portly figure ("That's bold talk for a one-eyed fat man" - one of the story's most memorable lines). People who've seen either "True Grit" will know that Cogburn isn't the only significant character, which brings me to Mattie Ross. In this film she is played by Lisa Pelikan. I believe that her performance is somewhat inferior to Kim Darby's (1969), and vastly inferior to Hailee Steinfeld's (2010); however, some of this may be due to the script, which rarely awards any of the actors a decent line. Given his size, temperament and involvement in all the action, Rooster Cogburn, even in this TV film, is always in the viewer's mind. Unfortunately, the combination of lacklustre acting and forgettable lines means that Mattie Ross provokes nothing but apathy (in this she reminded me of Emilia Clarke's Sarah Connor in "Terminator Genisys": more "invisible" than "bad"). The other aspects of the film fail to redeem it. There are one or two fairly fun action scenes, but - even for a TV film - it feels *much* older than it is. If I hadn't known that John Wayne was too ill to take the lead in 1978, I'd have suspected that this was the older version. I've read that it was intended to be launched into a TV series; it's a good thing that it wasn't.
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