Directed and Written By: Jeff Nichols
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Reese Witherspoon
Well that was a hell of a lot more than just a coming of age story…
Taking place just off the Mississippi river in Arkansas, Mud is a story told through the eyes of two 14-year-old boys (Sheridan and Lofland). One day when they are exploring an island that is conveniently only inhabited by one man that is oddly known by everybody as Mud (McConaughey). Even the man that raised him (Shepard) only knows him as Mud.. strange. Well then again one of the main characters is named Neckbone, so I guess that’s just what they do in Arkansas. Mud is a wanted murderer that is being hunted by both the police and a group of bounty hunters. Mud follows his plans of pursuing his love, Juniper (Witherspoon), and sends the boys to deliver messages for him. I’ll stop myself there to prevent from giving away too much of the film, but Mud is one hell of an Indie.
Coming from the director of Take Shelter, I was anticipating quite a lot out of Mud. The story sounded great, it was accepted into Cannes, and it starred one of todays’ biggest actors: Mud had everything going for it. Jeff Nichols wrote a powerful script. From what I’ve heard, there was hardly any modifications from the rough draft to the script used during filming. This shows a director with a vision, which is something that viewers should always appreciate. A writer/director with his confidence is a beautiful thing. While there are plot holes that can be found inside Mud, the writing is fantastic for it being only his 3rd directoral effort. We saw it with Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild last year, and we are seeing with Jeff Nichols’ Mud this year. Sundance has gotten two of the best young filmmakers the last two years, and if this is things are going then we have a bright future for cinema. Nichols’ writing/directing shows confidence, but whether or not it pays off is a matter of opinion. Personally I loved the way he went with Mud.
The Brains Behind ‘Mud’ in order from left to right: Jacob Lofland, Jeff Nichols, Reese Witherspoon, Matthew McConaughey, and Tye Sheridan
I’m not ashamed to admit that I have jumped on the McConaughey bandwagon. His acting is great, and I appreciate that he now takes roles that speak to him instead of roles that will make him money. He has identified that his Rom-Com days are over, and he will now do the dramatic acting that he always wanted to do. After all, he’s pretty damn good at it. His performance in Mud makes me appreciate him even more. After seeing the film, I would not want anyone else to play Mud.
Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland are both performances worthy of sharing screen time with McConaughey. Similar to Nichols and Zeilin in directing: Quvenzhane Wallis and these two boys show tremendous potential in front of the camera.
When I got word of Reese Witherspoon’s involvement, I was skeptical to say the least. I don’t like her as a person after reading about her arrest last month, and I think her acting is mediocre at best. She does not have enough screen time to have much effect on the movie, but for her minor role she gives an above average performance. It’s also a flaw in the script that such a major part of the story receives not attention at all. The viewer struggles to care about Juniper, and the girl that is being fought for just comes across as a hot mess.
The writing had a few too many loose ends for my taste, and the ending felt rushed and ultimately underwhelming. I commend Jeff Nichols for his ambition, but his writing could have been a bit better. The script is incredible for almost all of the film, but the ending does get scrappy. The good thing is that the movie fails to give you the Hollywood treatment, and leaves the viewer with a satisfying, but believable conclusion.
Overall, Mud is the best 2013 release so far, and it will not waste viewers time. Mud is a beautifully crafted film, and it is the first movie this year that sparks any Oscar hopes. While an April release is unlikely to receive recognition, I would not be surprised to see something for McConaughey and maybe, just maybe, a Best Picture nod. It’s a long shot, but expect to hear Mud’s name thrown around come January 2014. It’s a coming of age film that goes far beyond what the genre suggests. Mud has something for everyone, and should be seen by everyone.
Rotten Tomatoes: 98/100 😀
Best Picture Movie Reviews: 82/100