Mud Directed by: Jeff Nichols Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Reese Witherspoon, Michael Shannon Running Time: 2 hrs 10 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: April 26, 2013
PLOT: Two young men in Arkansas (Sheridan and Lofland) decide to help a man who is mysteriously hiding from civilization (McConaughey).
WHO'S IT FOR? Fans of McConaughey 2.0, Take Shelter, and other slowly paced American dramas.
The McConaughey Revolution continues with Mud, a film from Take Shelter director Jeff Nichols who apparently wrote this role for McConaughey before movies like Magic Mike, Killer Joe, and even Bernie made audiences reconsider his acting potential. Here, McConaughey is once again in compelling form, physically recognizable by being constantly shirtless and still handsome, but yet mysterious in what he brings to an already intriguing character. As Mud, McConaughey is able to best utilize the two aspects he can bring as an actor - he can seem larger than life, like in Killer Joe, or he can be a piece of the real world, as in his sly work in Bernie. Here, McConaughey is a fairytale that becomes a dirty reality.
The wisdom of Mud is of its honesty to both adolescence and adulthood, and how the two don't understand each other. Nichols' storytelling especially works well from the perspective of Sheridan's Ellis and his friend Neckbone (Lofland) as two growing boys who struggle to understand the conflicts of the adults in their lives (as Ellis screams to his dysfunctional parents, "You are married, you are supposed to love each other!").
These worlds are powerfully linked with Sheridan and McConaughey, their lives mirrored to the point in which McConaughey even says to Ellis, "You remind me of me." Mud becomes just as much about Ellis' coming of age as it does this tale of a man who begins as a fairytale, and ends up as a story about the real adult world. That being said, the poetry within Mud between its two characters can sometimes rhyme too neatly, the connections between Mud and Ellis turning into mini spoilers for each other's arcs. If one things happens to one, it becomes almost guaranteed a similar thing while happen to other, in their own way (such as with the two characters and their understanding of their women).
Mud is the type of original screenplay that reads out like a very solid novel. Its locations are vivid, their humble beauty captured by the sharp eye of cinematographer Adam Stone (who previously shot Nichols' Take Shelter, and also Craig Zobel's Compliance). Characters are inspired; even those with minimal dialogue have effective influence to the arc, and heart of the story. Even the pacing is from a writer who wants his audience to soak up the atmosphere of his story, as it sends two young characters back and forth to an island, in which the mysterious title character hides. Mud is rich storytelling as usually not to be found in mainstream releases (this movie comes from studio Lionsgate).
In fact, Mud doesn't just read like a very solid novel, but a specific one: "To Kill A Mockingbird."
Such a comparison does not come with negative significance, as that's a fine novel to be compared to, as well as one that has an arc that doesn't seem that common in modern storytelling. Mud is able to have a heart of its own, and it certainly doesn't walk in all of "Mockingbird's" footprints. Still, Mud finds a similar resonating theme, one with an understanding that reaches across age groups, with its own tale of two kids who understand the mystery of adulthood through the saga of a handsome and shirtless Boo Radley.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10