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« Best Actors (Lead and Supporting), My Ballot | Main | 20:10 Truer words were never spoken (by Toys) »
Sunday
Jan232011

Frank Rich on True Grit & The Social Network

Illustration by Barry BlittThe invaluable Frank Rich has a great op-ed on the success of True Grit in the age of The Social Network. It's beautifully written and interesting in the context of both awards season heat and our current political and economic climate. If I have one gripe with it it seems to downplay the fact that TSN is quite successful financially. Just not as successful.

I won't spoil the expert finale of the piece which shifts to The Social Network but here's a part I liked about True Grit which he correctly identifies as both elegaic and escapist for left and right wing Americans.

More than the first “True Grit,” the new one emphasizes Mattie’s precocious, almost obsessive preoccupation with the law. She is forever citing law-book principles, invoking lawyers and affidavits, and threatening to go to court. “You must pay for everything in this world one way or another,” says Mattie. “There is nothing free except the grace of God.”

That kind of legal and moral cost-accounting seems as distant as a tintype now. The new “True Grit” lands in an America that’s still not recovered from a crash where many of the reckless perpetrators of economic mayhem deflected any accountability and merely moved on to the next bubble, gamble or ethically dubious backroom deal. When Americans think of the law these days, they often think of a system that can easily be gamed by the rich and the powerful, starting with those who pillaged Lehman Brothers, A.I.G. and Citigroup and left taxpayers, shareholders and pensioners in the dust. A virtuous soul like Mattie would be crushed in a contemporary gold rush even if (or especially if) she fought back with the kind of civil action so prized by the 19th-century Mattie.

The whole piece is well worth a read.

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Reader Comments (4)

great article, though i disagree with the reasons for the varying box office success. Most people I know are still refusing to see TSN because they're somewhat oblivious to the critical acclaim and insist that they simply don't find the premise of "a movie about facebook" interesting. The majority of people I know who went to see True Grit, on the other hand, cited the same reasons they went to see it as they did Tron: "It looks badass and has Jeff Bridges in it." Then they came back and complained about the lack of gunfire in the movie.

January 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercici

Damn you, Login.

January 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRipley

A sub-theme running through The Social Network, and to a lesser extent in True Grit, is loyalty, or lack of. Rich touched upon this topic in his well thought-out piece. One thing that struck me about TSN is how every character in the film seemed to be motivated by their own self-interest and lack of consideration of others. Compare that to the actions of the characters in True Grit. Such is a telling commentary of our age in twenty-first century America and makes TSN a cautionary tale of America's current social and economic culture.

January 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

Interestingly, I did two posts years ago where I kind of defined the Western as the quintessential conservative movie, and the courtroom drama as the quintessential liberal movie, and here we're talking about how True Grit combines the two.

January 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp
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