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Mud - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
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cinema_holic
Mud
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Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B+
Cinematography: A-
Editing: B+



Matthew McConaughey's winning streak continues in Mud, even in a movie where he plays the title character who spends nearly the entire time living as a homeless criminal in a boat in a tree on an island. This guy's best decade seems to be his forties.

That whole boat-in-a-tree thing is actually plausible: it got stuck up there in a recent flood. It's discovered by Ellis (The Tree of Life's Tye Sheridan) and his buddy Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), two young teenagers looking for adventure in depressed rural Arkansas on the Mississippi River. When they discover Mud (McConaughey) living in the boat, the boys start aiding him both in his pursuit of his first love, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon, in a short but taut performance), and his evasion of the authorities.

Mud confesses he killed a man -- the man who was mistreating Juniper. Ellis, idealizing Mud's love for Juniper in the wake of an impending separation between his parents (Sarah Paulson and Ray McKinnon), finds this honorable and justified. He wants to help keep this relationship together, since his own parents' relationship is falling apart. Neckbone, by contrast, is a bit more detached about it; he has no parents and instead currently lives with his Uncle Galen (Michael Shannon), a good man who nonetheless has a fairly hands-off approach to child-rearing.

Mud has been compared to a "modern Huckleberry Finn," with its focus on a young boy and his best friend getting into trouble in the rural South. I can't really speak to that; if I ever read Huckleberry Finn, I don't remember it. (Maybe I should read it.) I can tell you writer-director Jeff Nichols (who also did the excellent Take Shelter -- also starring Michael Shannon) offers a solid story here, and gets a nuanced performance particularly out of Tye Sheridan. Jacob Lofland, as Neckbone, is a little less convincing; there are times when he seems a little more trance-like than to be acting. But you can't win them all when it comes to kid actors.

This is the rare movie, though, that easily transcends the many recognizable faces on its actors. In many cases it's hard to pinpoint where they were seen before, they are all so deeply embedded into the story and production. This is a movie with a very specific and evocative sense of place, and much like Winter's Bone, which took place in an area not far from this, it's nice to see such areas depicted without being condescending about the people who live there. It's nice to feel like we're finally living in an area where the rural poor can be depicted on film as something other than idiots or hillbillies.

Mud presents its story in the context of a dying way of life: both Ellis's dad and Neckbone's uncle make their living fishing (or crabbing) in the river. Ellis's dad faces losing the house if Ellis's mom moves forward with moving out of the houseboat and into town, because once the owner moves the government can tear down the property. No greater detail is given in the film, but you get the sense that it has to do with environmental preservation. The movie makes no judgments about this; it simply shows one particular consequence.

As you might guess, Ellis and Neckbone get deeper into Mud's affairs than they bargained for, and it all plays out in well-orchestrated beats -- some might say too well, and I would say the characters could have stood a little more depth. But there's a lot of story here, and even at 130 minutes the movie doesn't feel too long. I can't say Mud had a deep enough impact on me that I'll still be thinking about it months from now, but it's plenty compelling for now.

Matthew McConaughey only gets a little rough in MUD.


Overall: B+
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Comments
tommy50702 From: tommy50702 Date: July 25th, 2015 02:54 am (UTC) (Link)
This movie shows how evil a person can be.
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