A Genuine Gritty Christmas

My kids are home! Which means no time to blog (and also why I did not post yesterday). No time for anything at all except spend time with Sarah and Josh and make sure they are well fed so that they know how much their mother loves them. That’s what mothers do when their kids descend on the home front. Besides, it’s the holidays.

So I’m spending more time than usual in the kitchen. I’m making fancy dishes like coconut shrimp, Sicilian chicken tortellini with mushrooms, and baking their favorite treats, including chocolate chip banana bread–until they’re so full they beg me to get stop cooking!

And then there’s our annual Christmas Eve tradition: Going to the movies.

Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld make "True Grit" a winner.

Seeing a movie on Christmas Eve is the best because most folks are gathering at home with loved ones, which means that movie theaters are relatively empty. Plenty of seating, plenty of parking and hardly any traffic at all. So it’s a great time to see a new release.

Most years we have no problem deciding on a film, though choosing can be tricky. If it was just up to Sarah and me, we’d pick a comedy, a British drama, or a chick flick. But with Josh, that’s not going to fly. He prefers action.This year, Sarah wanted to see “The Little Fockers” and I wanted to see “How Do You Know.” Josh was interested in “True Grit.” I like to let the movie critics contribute to the decision process but Josh and Sarah don’t take much stock in their reviews, whereas I trust them implicitly. There’s been many a film I’ve wanted to see, but have put the kibosh on once I read the reviews.

So, while letting the critics help us decide is out, allowing Rotten Tomatoes, where filmgoers get to rate the movies, is in. Which is how we learned that the “Little Fockers” and “How Do You Know,” ranked near the bottom (11 and 34%, respectively), but the score for True Grit (95%) was through the roof. So despite my misgivings about the film, I plunked down $39.50 for three tickets to see “True Grit” starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and a breakout newcomer named, Hailee Steinfeld.

First, let me tell you why I didn’t want to see it. I saw the original when I was 14 and did not like it one iota. My brother Cesar, dragged me along and made me sit through it twice (yes, back then moviegoers could sit through two, even three showings of a film and no one said anything or tried to kick you out). Forget the fact that Westerns are not my thing. Cesar convinced me to go because, as he put it, I’d love the story about a girl with moxie, which, he assured me, I would be able to relate to my own life (which proved false, as I never had the desire to avenge anything). So I went with my brother to see the John Wayne film and I downright hated it because, moxie or no moxie, Kim Darby, who played the role of the young girl, could not hide the fact that this movie is a Western. And I DON’T LIKE WESTERNS!

But now I’m a mom and Josh wanted “True Grit” and Sarah was willing to see it too. With memories of the original very much intact, I braced myself for two hours of agony. And I could not have been more wrong.

The Coen brothers have revitalized this story in a big way. It’s fresh, it’s exciting. Funny and compelling, too. The writing is crisp and witty. And the young Steinfeld is sensational. If I could’ve stayed to see it twice, I just might have. It is that good. And best yet, it didn’t at all feel like a western to me. If you ask me, it had more of a feel of the film, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, than an ordinary, humorless western.

Yes, I love spending time with my kids. So much fun and yet so fleeting. The house is a mess with all their stuff strewn about, but I don’t care. We’re spending Christmas Day together, watching basketball games. (Guess whose choice that was?) Two of us are still in pajamas and one of us (me) is not, due to needing to take Henry out for periodic walks. We’re noshing on leftovers, and I can’t think of any place I’d rather be except with my kids. All grown up but still wanting to be here. With their mom–that’s me!