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'True Grit' gets PG-13 rating: Why that's good news

The Coen Brothers' remake of "True Grit," starring Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn and Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross (above), last week earned a PG-13 rating -- good news for all who anticipate a faithful rendering of Charles Portis' marvelous 1968 novel. Portis' exhilarating Western tale of 14-year-old Mattie and her journey into the Choctaw Nation to avenge her father's murder deserves a better movie than the pretty good 1969 film that featured John Wayne as Rooster, a mean, one-eyed U.S. Marshal. Wayne was wonderfully entertaining, but a great adaptation of "True Grit" must hinge on Mattie, and Kim Darby wasn't up to the part. To quote Donna Tartt's terrific afterword to the 2004 edition, Mattie "is the perfect soldier, despite her sex. She is as tireless as a gun dog; and while we laugh at her single-mindedness, we also stand in awe of it." (That's why many of us compared the heroine of the recent book and movie "Winter's Bone" to Mattie.) The danger of the Coen Brothers doing Mattie's story was that they'd overly sexualize her character, gussy up her diction in some contemporary-profane way, and shade her adventure toward extreme, absurd cruelties. So the PG-13 rating is encouraging, even if it is for "intense sequences of western violence including disturbing images." They are part of the book, too. Have you ever read Portis' masterpiece? Do you have fond memories of the first movie? How much are you looking forward to the second one?

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