jeff bridges true grit.jpg
Jeff Bridges as Rooster "Call me 'Cock' and it will be the end of you" Rogburn in True Grit.
The Dinner: a cup of homemade

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True Grit Means Realizing When You've Made a Mistake

jeff bridges true grit.jpg
Jeff Bridges as Rooster "Call me 'Cock' and it will be the end of you" Rogburn in True Grit.
The Dinner: a cup of homemade cole slaw, a caprese platter and a schooner of Pumpkin Death ale from Ellensburg's Iron Horse brewery at Ballard's Old Town Alehouse.

The Movie: True Grit at the Majestic Bay Theatre, also in Ballard.

The Screenplate: Sometimes the thematic string that ties together these Dinner & a Movies is as sturdy as piano wire. Sometimes it's so threadbare it's liable to snap at any moment.

Such was the case for the yarn I'd planned on using to bind a meal at Ballard institution Hattie's Hat to the Coen brothers adaptation of western revenge flick True Grit. Under the misguided belief that the 14-year-old pistol of a protagonist in Charles Portis' cult novel was named Hattie, and not, as it were, Mattie, I thought the choice had some symmetry. It wasn't until my girlfriend and I were almost to the Hat's brim that I realized my mistake.

Fortunately, on Ballard Avenue there's always another option. And that option happened to be the Alehouse, which, with its twin towering Spanish Red Oak cabinets, is not only as close to a saloon as you'll find within a ten-block radius but also operates in a building that's housed bars since the time period Portis was writing about with his story of a 19th-century Arkansas girl who hires a bounty hunter to avenge her father's murder.

Jeff Bridges depiction of ruthless marshal Rooster Cogburn is different from that of John Wayne's in the 1969 original in that Bridges wears his eye patch on his right eye rather than his left and grunts out words from somewhere below his spleen. But both Roosters would agree that what I ordered was the least manly thing on the menu.

Even though you get to eat it with your hands, which is in of itself a manly pursuit, there's no order more fey than the caprese platter. But that's the beauty of living in a world where men are no longer measured by the length of their kill count: it's OK to eat your body weight in tomatoes, mozzarella and a pleasingly salty tapenade.

(My only gripe about Alehouse: the waiter failed to discount my appetizer, which was supposed to be half-off on Wednesdays, and I failed to notice in time for it to make a difference.)

As my movie critic crush so helpfully points out, the most marked characteristic of True Grit is its dialogue. In Portis' world of outlaws and the men who chase them, it seems the worst breach of etiquette is using a contraction; there's nary an "it's" or "they're" to be heard throughout the entire film.

The byproduct of this quirk, itself a result of a very faithful adaptation, is humor. Because you don't expect such formal language to come out of such unhygienic mouths, there are more laugh lines per scene (at least in the film's talky first half) than in any other Coen brothers movie since The Big Lebowski.

What this also means is that for the first time in what feels like a long time, the Coen brothers don't treat their characters with contempt. There's no violence for violence's sake as there was in Burn After Reading, or carefully rationed sadism as in A Serious Man.

In fact, minus some equine abuse which had my girlfriend more disturbed than anything that happened to an actual human being on screen, this may be one of the few Coen brothers movies you can leave feeling altogether untroubled about the world. Just remember: Mattie, not Hattie.

 
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