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Mud (2013)

2013 May 1
by profwagstaff

A man’s gotta take care of his affairs.


Directed by: Jeff Nichols
Written by: Jeff Nichols

Mud (Matthew McConaughey in what very well could be his best role ever) is a man. He’s just about everything you think of when you think of the word “Man.” He’s rough, tough and he can do it himself.

He’s a haunted man. There’s something in his past that is keeping his present close at hand and his future at bay. Of course, it involves a woman (Reese Witherspoon). It also makes him a hunted man.

When Ellis and Neckbone (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland) take their boat to a little island off the shore of their Mississippi River bound town, they find Mud there doing his best to survive while hiding away from the world that’s after him. The two boys are doing their own bit of hiding. They’re just on the verge of the almighty “growing up” and they’re looking for a fort to stave it off as much as possible. Unfortunately, not only has Mud commandeered the boat that landed in a tree after a hurricane, but he’s going to make them grow up a little faster than they really want to.

Ellis has his own problems at home, though, with his mom and dad (Sarah Paulson and Ray McKinnon) possibly splitting up. If they do, she’s moving out of the boat house that they’ve all called home all of Ellis’s life. If she moves out, the boat goes to the state, which, well, no good will come of that.

Neckbone, on the other hand, doesn’t have any parents. He stays with his uncle (Michael Shannon) who is kind of a player and a little silly, but loves Neck all the same.

Then there’s old man Tom Blankenship (Sam Shepard) across the river. But what does he have to do with anything?

Mud is one of those movies that you really think you have pegged going in, but then it does this really strange thing about a quarter of the way through: it gets awesome. This isn’t just another coming of age thriller about an ex-con who forces boys to do things that they shouldn’t do, although that’s what the trailer would have you believe. The movie that the trailer sells looks pretty mediocre. Mud, though, is a very good movie about being a man and what that means in today’s world.

Each of the men in the film have some pretty heavy decisions to make and even heavier responsibilities. They all think that it’s the fault of a woman, but they know it’s their own damn fault. There’s a point where you could get the feeling that this is kind of a misogynist film because all of the women seem to be in it for themselves and have no concern for anyone else. Then, all of a sudden, you realize that the female characters have just as many dimensions as the male characters, they just do it with less screen time.

I kind of loved this movie. It reminded me of a more serious Stand By Me. Not completely serious, because these kids can be pretty funny…and they’re every bit as good as the stars of that long-ago film. (26 years, eh? Man.) In fact, everyone is great in this film. Matthew was surprisingly good. If you’ve ever thought that he was just some Texas surfer dude without a lot of range, check this one out. He finally shows some talent here beyond taking off his shirt.


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