Jeff Nichols' "Mud"

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Jeff Nichols' "Mud"

Post by Deviss on Thu Aug 08, 2013 6:40 pm

This was, quite possibly, one of the best, most impactful movies I've seen in a while.

Deviss wrote:"C'mon son, you gotta see this."

  • Story: Four and a half Stars
  • Acting: Five Stars
  • Directing: Four and a half Stars
  • Visuals: Four and a half Stars
  • Overall: Five Stars

In the mass of movies that are released in a year, some great, others middling, and the rest not worth the film they're put on, it's a rare thing for a movie like this to come along. Even rarer is the case where a movie reviewer's job is this easy. Normally, for me anyway, there is a good deal of consideration before their fingers ever touch a keyboard. Questions such as, "How do I feel character A performed as opposed to character B?" as well as, "Did this aspect work for me consistently where this other one failed?" and, most importantly of all, "Did the story in this movie convince me to become invested in its characters, have me believe that world or universe can actually exist, and, most importantly, make sense?" I've been confronted with those questions, along with many others, every time I have sat down to review a movie and normally I come to their respective conclusions either beforehand, or at some point during the actual review. That didn't happen with "Mud".

---

Fourteen year-old Ellis (Tyler Sheridan) lives in a makeshift houseboat with his parents, Mary Lee (Sarah Paulson) and Senior (Ray McKinnon), on the banks of a river in Arkansas. Early one morning Ellis sneaks out to meet his best friend, Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), also fourteen, who lives with his uncle. The two boys set out to an island on the Mississippi River, where Neckbone has discovered an unusual sight-a boat, suspended high in the trees. That's when they meet Mud (Matthew McConaughey). Promising to give them the treehouse boat, his current hideout, in exchange for food, Ellis and Neckbone cautiously agree to help. Shortly thereafter, the boys realize what his true goal is: To be reunited with his longtime love, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). As the boys risk everything to reunite these seemingly mythical lovers, Ellis's own ideas about love and romance are challenged by the strains in the relationships closest to him. Through it all, Ellis struggles to look for an example of love that he can believe in, learning about the unspoken rules and risks of love and the reality of heartbreak.

As I said in the introduction, the entirety of my questions, even ones I didn't even know I had, were answered within this movie's opening five minutes. In the opening moments, there was one particular scene that told me, "This will not be what you expected." That was a sentiment that remained constant throughout this movie's two hour and ten minute run-time. Even before McConaughey made his appearance, I was engrossed by what Ellis and Neckbone were doing. That is a rare thing; never have I been as interested in what two previously unknown fourteen year-old boys were doing as I was while watching "Mud". Tyler Sheridan and Jacob Lofland were fantastic in their respective roles; one young boy trying to figure out what love and romance really are; the other seemingly content with his lot in life, but will do anything for his best friend.

Then, McConaughey makes his appearance. Before sitting down to watch him in this, the most recent movie McConaughey movie I had seen was the 2011 American thriller "The Lincoln Lawyer". And while he delivered a great performance as struggling Criminal defense attorney Mickey Haller, that is next to nothing compared to his gritty, superstitious character in Mud. Instead of the stereotypical beach bum, surfer hippy, "Dude, check out my washboard abs" character we've seen in seemingly countless Romantic Comedies, we get a much more grounded, subtle, and believable character. One who I was initially hesitant of, much like Ellis and Neckbone, but rapidly warmed to. Soon enough, I was as invested in the character of Mud as I was for the two young boys. As strong as McConaughey's performance was, a case could be made that the real standouts of this movie are the two young boys. However, I believe that each performance bolstered the other, offering an engrossing Southern drama that manages to remain heartwarming without becoming sappy.

But of course, this wouldn't be the critically acclaimed movie that it is without the supporting cast. Everyone from Sarah Paulson, Reese Witherspoon, and Ray McKinnon to Michael Shannon, Sam Shepard, and Paul Sparks delivered memorable performances in their own rights. They all were believable enough and interesting enough for me to care about them, or in the case of one or two, purposefully not care at all, and that was it. They arrived memorably and did the jobs they needed to, and part of me believe that was the intended purpose of each character. Never were we given the idea that any of their characters were meant to do big things at some point in this movie and that seemed to fit perfectly. It's much like the character of Neckbone being content with his lot in life, but unlike him, the majority of the supporting cast wouldn't do whatever it took to help another.

The only other aspect of this movie that I can comment on is how atmospheric it is. Much like the initial supposition I had about the characters of Ellis and Neckbone, it was perfectly evident from the opening moments of this movie that not only were the characters of "Mud" unlike anything I had seen before, but the look and feel of this part of the world would also be disparate from any other movie I have seen up to that point. Heck, at one point during the movie, I wanted to find my own island and take a walk through its woods, I was so engrossed it what was going on in front of me.

All in all, this is a fantastically good movie, especially if one considers it to be a coming-of-age drama, which it could easily be classified as, and I highly recommend you see it, if you haven't already. But even if you haven't, I wouldn't blame you; I almost missed this movie were it not for some friends of mine here on MovieWeb. And for keeping this movie in my peripheral long enough to surface in my immediate, I thank you.

This was a review by tMG, thank for you reading, now get out of here and go and watch this movie!

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