True Grit part 8












So, Rooster has planned an ambush at the cabin, and now LaBoeuf, who we’ve been seeing so far as a threat to Mattie’s goal of retribution, returns not as a threat but as a witless buffoon.

Lucky Ned Pepper and his gang, sans Tom Chaney, return to The Original Greaser Bob’s cabin for their planned rendezvous with Quincy and Moon, and find LaBoeuf there instead and, presumably, Quincy and Moon dead.  LaBoeuf, believing himself better than his prey, announces himself as a Texas Ranger and is set upon.

This is bad enough for LaBoeuf, but then Rooster starts shooting from his sniper’s roost and wounds LaBoeuf in the shoulder.  You could say that Rooster doesn’t mean to shoot LaBoeuf, but then again he doesn’t really take care not to.  Lucky Ned and his gang more or less get away (Rooster kills two of them) and LaBoeuf almost bites off his own tongue.

LaBoeuf’s wounded tongue and shoulder are not in the novel.  Why were they invented?  First, they cast a darker shadow on Rooster (implying that he would actually kill a fellow lawman in order to get what he wants).  Then, they increase the tension between the two men, rather like the tension between Hooper and Quint in Jaws.  And, injuring LaBoeuf raises the dramatic stakes between the “good guys” and the “bad guys” – the worse off our guys are, the more powerful the bad guys get.  And, it gives LaBoeuf an injury to match Rooster’s dead eye.  Justice, in True Grit, is not blind, only half-blind.  And now, the Long Arm of the Law has been wounded in the shoulder.

(Lastly, LaBoeuf’s wounded tongue gives the Coens a chance to joke about one of their favorite themes, Talkers vs Non-Talkers.  The Talkers in Coen Bros movies are always held to be idiots, while the Non-Talkers seem to hold more of the power (or at least more of the filmmakers’ sympathy).  Thus, Rooster looks down on LaBoeuf’s chattering, even though he’s spent a good chunk of Act II chattering about his own self.)

Once the smoke clears, Mattie goes to feed her horse Blackie and rhapsodizes about her adventure.  She hasn’t got Tom Chaney yet, and she’s just watched two murders and a botched ambush, but she still romanticizes her experience, on the spot, as though she is in the midst of a grand adventure instead of on a path of vengeance with a foolish knight and a very mean knave.

Back inside the cabin, LaBoeuf tells the story of how he nearly got Chaney at another time, but lost his chance because the accuracy of his Sharp’s Carbine was offset by his horse being in motion.  Speaking of Jaws, this speech lands near the same spot as Quint’s speech about the USS Indianapolis, and carries something like the same effect for LaBoeuf.  Chaney is LaBoeuf’s shark, in some ways more than Matties.  Mattie gets no scene where she talks about what her father meant to her, but LaBoeuf gets a scene where he mourns the loss of his chance to kill Chaney.  And his error, it seems, is a sort of Cartesian one: he had the right gun but the wrong mount, his mind was in the game but body blew the shot.  In any case, Rooster uses LaBoeuf’s touching confession as an opportunity to resume taking the piss out of him, and proceeds to begin drinking what appears to be an entire case of whiskey.

The team saddles up and heads toward the Winding Stair Mountains, which is where Lucky Ned’s gang has a claim on a silver mine.  Along the way, Rooster drinks non-stop and resumes his pissing match with LaBoeuf.  The fight is the same but the stakes have changed – now it seems like neither man is in good enough shape to boast of much of anything.  They are both good shots but both miss their marks at times, Rooster because he’s drunk and LaBoeuf because he’s wounded, and Mattie no longer seems interested in either of them.

They arrive at the Winding Stair Mountains and Lucky Ned’s claim, but no one is at home.  This trail is a dead end.  Again, this development is not in the novel and has been inserted in order to create an End of Act II Low Point.  Around the campfire, Rooster turns mean and Mattie suddenly finds herself defending LaBoeuf.  Rooster, it seems, for all his wiliness, has failed as a tracker and led both Mattie and LaBoeuf into a dangerous, savage land.  His risk-taking and seat-of-his-pants instincts have led him and his team to nothing.  In Act I he groused to Mattie “I have nothing,” and now he ups the ante: “I am a foolish old man who’s been drawn into a wild goose chase by a harpy in trousers and a nincompoop.”  He accepts no blame for their situation, and washes his hands of it.

Mattie, seeing that LaBoeuf, for all his silliness, is the “better man,” asks him to her with him, and LaBoeuf, despite his chivalry, refuses to take her – he says he’s not pursuing Chaney any longer, he’s headed back to Texas.  Act II ends with Mattie having lost her champion and being left with a drunken lout who wants nothing to do with her.


4 Responses to “True Grit part 8”
  1. R. Franklin says:

    Just wanted to say I have greatly enjoyed reading these essays, and that they serve as excellent companions to an excellent movie. Rather than say ‘I agree with this’ or ‘I disagree with that’, I’ll just say this, ‘Thanks.’

  2. Jason Langlois says:

    I also want to say thanks for posting these.

  3. Andrew says:

    Good stuff so far 🙂 Hope to see Act 3 covered as well; only just got to see the film this week (curse you UK release dates!) and so was fun reading all 8 parts at once.

  4. Tal says:

    great stuff. I like your thoughts about the film. I’m an avid reader of your blog, keep ’em coming friend 🙂