I am at my second Sundance Film Festival.These are my reviews.
Mississippi Grind DIRECTORS/SCREENWRITERS: Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden PRINCIPAL CAST: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Mendelsohn, Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton, Alfre Woodard, Robin Weigert U.S.A., 2014, 108 min., color
Plot (courtesy of Sundance): Gerry is a talented poker player whose habit is getting the best of him. He convinces younger player Curtis to join him on a road trip, and they begin gambling their way toward a highstakes game in New Orleans. During their journey, true motivations are revealed, and the two bond.
Review: Four aces is an almost unbeatable poker hand. This film is about gambling (one ace). Mendelsohn is an amazing greasy actor (emotionally and with most of his characters, visually) and there is almost no one I'd rather watch in a poker movie besides Matt Damon and Ed Norton (another ace). Ryan Reynolds starred and blew me away in The Voices. You haven't seen this film, but I did last year at Sundance, plus I've oddly cheered on his movie career for years and now this odd and unnecceary fandom is playing off with good performances (another ace). Mississippi Grind mentioned the Hawkeyes (my alma mater) and starts in Iowa (my home state). That's the final ace. Four aces, almost perfect. If you can't tell, I was a fan on this film and the emotional grind it puts you through.
Gerry is a degenerate gambler. He runs into Curtis, and decides he is his good luck charm. Curtis is definitely a good time and a breath of fresh air for Gerry. Even if that fresh air is actually filled with casino smoke and whiskey.
Curtis doesn't have the stamina for poker, but Gerry does so they decide to make their way down to New Orleans, gambling along the way. It's uplifting and depressing, just like gambling. The film doesn't focus too much on actual poker hands or horse racing, but instead you get the sense of the hustlers and strugglers who make up this world. Reynolds looks like he hasn't slept in days and it's to great affect in this film. The soundtrack is right up my alley and when "This Train in Bound for Glory" blares in the car, deep down you know they're probably not.
Reynolds might have a woman back home, Gerry has a girl and an ex, and it is a really good pace of sharing the past and the truth with these two guys on the road. Especially considering it's obvious they typically lie the majority of their lives. Plus, there is plenty of fun stories that Curtis tells about his colorful, traveling past. It's shocking how much the ending sucked me in, mainly because a gambling film must stick the ending to work overall.
Looking at the weathered Reynolds, and the dirty, itchy Mendelsohn struggle with their demons is just aces in Mississippi Grind