MOVIE: Mud (2013)

mudEllis and his BFF Neckbone (“Neck” for short, because: obvs), are 14 year-old boys growing up poor in Arkansas.  Ellis lives on a houseboat on the Mississippi — his father is a fisherman — and he and Neck spend a lot of their free time zipping up and down the waterways in a boat, exploring the myriad islands that pepper the region.

One day, Neck takes Ellis to one of those island, eager to show him a discovery.  Out exploring, see, he’d come across the coolest thing — a big speedboat (I guess; I know naught of boats) stuck at the top of a tree, probably in the aftermath of a flood.  Excited to have found what amounts to a free tree house, the boys climb up and begin to explore, only to find the lower deck stocked with fresh food, a sure sign someone else got there first.

Just minutes later, they meet exactly whom — a tall, lanky, grubby-looking character named Mud (McConaughey).  Though Neck is wary, Ellis is immediately taken in by Mud’s personality, and his story.  He’s there, he tells the boys, waiting for the love of his life, Juniper (Witherspoon), to show up so the two of them can run away together.  The hitch?  He killed her last boyfriend in a fight — protecting Juniper, he says — and that guy’s extremely violent family is out for revenge.  What he needs is for Ellis and Neck to get him the supplies necessary to get the boat down and running again, and to find Juniper and pass her a few notes about the plan.

Neck is pretty “no way,” but Ellis, currently watching his parents’ marriage — and thus his whole world — crumble around him, is inspired by Mud’s yarns of everlasting love in the face of strife.  Which is how he quickly finds himself smack in the middle of Mud’s problems, danger (physical and emotional) and all.

This is a really beautifully made and thoughtful film, with astonishingly solid acting chops on both the boys at its helm.  The kid who plays Ellis in particular (Tye Sheridan) exhibits an incredible depth in a very 14 year-old sort of way (“I know everything, I am brave; I know nothing, I am afraid” is how I would describe that way).  The river as metaphor for the unknown, unforeseeable, and slightly scary paths we travel as we grow up works as well as it always does (think Huck Finn).

McConaughey employs his usual charms here, but this time with a hint of the unbalanced thrown in for good measure and to good effect.  He also gets an A for effort at looking ugly, never easy for him, though in putting in the crooked teeth, they might’ve made them slightly less Tony-Curtis-in-The-Great-Race white (*gleam*).  Mud is a complicated man with a complicated past, and he’s battling a set of very serious demons, as well as more than one delusion.  Watching Ellis get sucked into the “romance” of Mud’s life, only to get a series of smacks in the face from reality in response, is an incredibly gripping and moving experience.

Also:  Sam Shepard.  ‘Nuff said.

Highly, highly recommended!

[Prequeue at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre: Drama
Cast:  Matthew McConaughey, Michael Shannon, Reese Witherspoon, Sam Shepard, Ray McKinnon, Tye Sheridan, Joe Don Baker, Jacob Lofland

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2 Responses to “MOVIE: Mud (2013)”

  1. Brian Toohey Says:

    Glad to hear it– I’ve really liked the director’s two previous films, Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter, but was a little worried about this one just because of the presence of McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon. Glad to see the quality of his work didn’t suffer with those two names being brought in. And if you haven’t seen it, I highly HIGHLY recommend Take Shelter with Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain– that was on my 10 Best list a couple of years back.

  2. RogerBW Says:

    I have always found that McConaughey comes over as just a bit skeevy, no matter what role he’s playing. I’m glad to see that he’s taking on roles in which this is a part of the character.

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