Something about Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit just slays me. I watched the movie last night for what may well have been the fourth time, and every time this has happened, and seemingly with increasing intensity—there are scenes where I find myself on the verge of tears, total lump in the throat and everything, for no apparent reason other than that Mattie Ross, in her hands, is just such a tremendous little badass. But also, she is such a fourteen year old girl. She is a fourteen year old girl as I knew them, as perhaps I was myself—part firecracker, part prude. She knows exactly what she wants, occasionally somehow knows how to get it, but is still living in the fantasy world of late-childhood. Her conversations with Little Blackie are where you really see this, where she seems just like another little girl telling secrets to her horse—the horse she’s riding through Indian territory along with a strange drunk U.S. Marshall who she’s hired to kill the man who killed her father (and who, in fact, she will eventually kill herself). She knows just enough to be dangerous, the rest patched together with pluck and sass and dumb luck. Also, those braids.
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