Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld)
In the Coen brothers’ remake of the 1969 Western, Mattie spends pretty much the entire running time surrounded by men and probing them to see if they have what she calls “true grit.” Of course, she has more if it than anyone, which is why the men she meets almost always fail to measure up to her exacting standards. The 14-year-old is grimly determined, fiercely independent, smart, and fearless. (As played by Steinfeld, she looks like Melissa Gilbert’s Laura Ingalls, packing heat.)
But she’s not invulnerable, as she discovers too late. She’s also prematurely embittered (though seeing your father’s killer go unpunished will do that to a girl), but too young to recognize the effects of the venom building up inside her because of her single-minded quest for revenge. (Like Edmond Dantes or Inigo Montoya, she seems to have given no thought to what she will do with the rest of her life once her quest for vengeance is complete.) Her valor is admirable, though it comes with a price; then again, given her unshakable principles, she doesn’t seem like someone who harbors regrets.
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