Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Sam Shepard, Ray McKinnon, Sarah Paulson, Michael Shannon, Paul Sparks, Joe Don Baker, Bonnie Sturdivant.
Rated: PG-13. Drama. Running Time: 2 hours 10 minutes.
We’ve been on a roll of reviewing some really predictable and extremely mediocre movies of late. If you’re a regular to MRSRAG, you know on occasion we get viewing suggestions from our friend Kevin (usually films off the beaten path), and he hasn’t let us down yet. The Intouchables was his best referral; a sub-titled, must-see that we never would have caught if not for him. So here we are again with Mud, and for the first time, we’re a little worried. The problem: the last two McConaughey movies we’ve seen were dreadful. Killer Joe and The Paperboy. Unwatchable cinema at it’s very worst. Trepidation unwarranted, Kevin was right as usual. Mud is the story of two teenage river rats from Arkansas, Ellis (Sheridan) and Neckbone (Lofland). They happen upon Mud (McConaughey ) on a deserted island while seeking a boat in a tree, deposited there during a flood. Mud is living in it and the boys want it. We don’t find out for a while that Mud is on the run from the law, but it’s easy to deduce. He’s also waiting to meet up with his true love, Juniper (Witherspoon). The boys befriend Mud, and soon a scavenger hunt for boat parts is on. No formulaic predictability in this one, thank goodness!
Those two films Ross mentioned earlier were atrocious. So you can understand our consternation with Kev’s newest suggestion. McConaughey has been on some career path. I recall a time when every movie the guy touched turned to gold; A Time to Kill, Amistad, Frailty, Reign of Fire, The Lincoln Lawyer, and a slew of memorable romantic comedies including The Wedding Planner, How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, Fool’s Gold and Failure to Launch. Recently, he’s been hitting the independent film circuit, but his choices have been strange. He’s also been favoring roles where he gets to play a perverse or exaggerated version of himself, most apparent in last Summer’s Magic Mike. Mud has the usual makings of a McConaughey character: scarcity of shirt, down South townie roots and an innate resourcefulness. However, this film had an incredible supporting cast that authenticated his portrayal. The two young boys were spectacular, especially the lead, Ellis. His performance was spellbinding and heart wrenching as he realizes the painful truth of the hardships surrounding life, family and love. I also thoroughly enjoyed Sam Shepard’s character, Ellis’ neighbor & a retiree who spends most days on the river fishing. Mud had the originality, the heart and the talent that a lot of films lack in this day and age. And it is, by far, the best piece of work McConaughey has done in several years.
McConaughey, like Johnny Depp, seems incapable of playing any kind of “normal” role. Nothing wrong with wanting to be unique, but after too much of the same thing, the quirky-ness becomes tiresome. Honestly, I think they’ve both lost it. Matthew is only comfortable playing southern drawling, sweaty, half-naked, dirty, smarmy weirdos of which Mud is no exception. The difference here is, while he is the title character, as Maria has already alluded to, Mud absolutely belongs to the two boys. Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland are wondrous as Ellis and Neckbone. Two relative newcomers who I believe you’ll be seeing much more of in the future. Ellis is kind, tough, a protector of women and a romantic. He loves living on the river, and dreads the thought of moving into town, if his mother has her way. Neckbone is not quite as quick to help or believe, but he is fiercely loyal, has a keen sense of self preservation and generally ends up onboard with whatever Ellis wants to do. The boys learn some tough lessons along the way about truth and trust and love, but they always have each other in this ‘us against the world’ tale. It made me think back to my teenaged days hanging with my buds, getting into some mischief and the great feeling of someone always having your back.
Ross could identify with Ellis, while I found much in common with the skeptical Neckbone. Ellis was eager to help, while Neckbone kept a practical and level headed approach to the dubious Mud. Mud was suspenseful, touching and well executed. Overall, I enjoyed the film. It was well worth our usual Redbox stipend, which has not been the case recently. I hope Ross’ prediction is right & we see more of these two young boys in the near future. They seem to have a ton of potential and they basically stole the show. Let’s hope McConaughey plots a new course from here on out, Mud is the right direction for him. And we have to give one more note of thanks to our pal Kev again! You, my friend, have exquisite taste.
Ross’ Rating: 3.75 out of 5 Gummy Bears.
Maria’s Rating: 4 Gummies.