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I find it very hard to like John Wayne. He was like the Justin Bieber of the old Hollywood western. He stands for that all-American goodness so happy and honorable it wouldn't hurt a fly. He called High Noon un-American for its selfish depictions of the townsfolk, I call it one of the best westerns, if not the best western of all time. Here however, I actually like Wayne. He actually feels like a real human being as the gruff and tough Rooster Cogburn. He's likable, and he holds a nice presence on screen. Unfortunately, he's basically the only good thing in a film that hasn't aged very well.
AMC has been replaying this film a lot lately with the remake having just come out, so it's kind of interesting comparing the two films even though they take their source material differently. Both Roosters are great in their own way for instance. Both Cheney's are kind of menacing, although Brolin is clearly much more so. Matt Damon is easily better than Glenn Campbell, but the remake certainly doesn't have a young Robert Duvall & Dennis Hopper hanging out in the background. Then there's Mattie Ross, who both movies rely on heavily for plot reasons and such. As such, the quality of both movies heavily ride on the character and how she's portrayed. There's a reason for instance why Hailee Steinfeld is nominated for an Oscar for her performance, because she carries the film very well, and makes Mattie Ross a strong female character.
The original is quite the opposite, and as a result, the movie is kind of god-awful.
Kim Darby never was a good actress in any sense of the word, but when she was a kid, she was just awful in every sense of the word. She's shrill, annoying, and just plain stupid. Granted, a lot of it is bad writing for the character, but Kim Darby plays her no favors. Instead of a strong female character, we have a little girl who Justin Bieber apparently stole his haircut from, who's hard to take seriously, and falls stupidly into the damsel-in-distress dynamic more than once. As a result, every scene she's in, which is a lot of the film, verges on either being laughable, or cringe-inducing.
Overall, coming at the film from a very modern prospective, I found the original True Grit very hard to get through at times. Some of the acting is pretty good, and it's good to see John Wayne in one of his best roles, but Kim Darby's Mattie Ross kind of torches the whole production in a heap of cringe-inducing smoke, that looks even more smoldered now that we have a good remake to compare it too.