Film Review: MUD
Written and directed by Jeff Nichols
Director of photography by Adam Stone
Edited by Julie Monroe
Music Supervision by David Wingo
Production design by Richard A. Wright
Costumes by Kari Perkins
Produced by Sarah Green, Aaron Ryder and Lisa Maria Falcone
Distribution by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions
Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes.
Principle Cast: Matthew McConaughey , Tye Sheridan, Sam Shepard, Reese Witherspoon , Sarah Paulson, Ray McKinnon, Michael Shannon, Paul Sparks, Joe Don Baker, Bonnie Sturdivant and Jacob Lofland
Tweetable Review: Nichol’s Mud is an uniquely honest and slow-burning masculine tale about awkward honesty
Write and film what you know tends to prove spot-on in most cases for writers and directors and in the case of Mud, Jeff Nichols proves he knows the South, suspense, drama and realism. In the director’s follow-up to 2011’s Take Shelter, Jeff Nichols submerges audiences into a world of back swamps and mosquitos to meet up with two 14 year-old teens – Ellis and Neckbone – as they depart up the Mississippi river toward a deserted island only to find a man named Mud hiding out. Mud describes fantastic scenarios—he killed a man in Texas and vengeful bounty hunters are coming to get him. He says he is planning to meet and escape with the love of his life, Juniper, who is waiting for him in town. Skeptical but intrigued, Ellis and Neckbone agree to help him but it isn’t long until Mud’s visions come true and the local small town is besieged by a beautiful girl with a line of bounty hunters in tow.
A search for a mystical island, adolescent mischief, boys with little responsibility and explorations of dangerous lands with snakes & outlaws makes parallel of Mark Twain’s 18th Century novel Huck Finn the closest influence on Mud‘s screenplay. Nichols has drawn a wonderfully playful sense of friendship and freedom to setting an overall tone for the adventure our main characters get themselves into but unlike many adaptations where the author is merely trying to replicate plot points, Nichols has still managed to take the stories and ideas from previous material and make them his own – hardly any single point in Mudseem to recycle their sources or boil any down to being derivative.
The best parts of Mud rival anything that Nichols has done in the past and still manages to keep some unspoken ideas floating throughout the film; Nichols is a purveyor of storytelling and Mud has the director’s signature written beginning to end. The film gives viewers a peak into locations that aren’t touched by time but have a vibrancy about them with a Malick sensibility working just under the surface but loaded upfront and never etherial. Matthew McConaughey brings unpredictability and mystery to his gruff & outlawed loaner, and while this isn’t the Actor’s finest performance, it certainly isn’t any less worthy; there is a desperation that lays about McConaughey that’s as heavy and thick as the swamp’s humidity in which the title character lives. Tye Sheridan’s naturalistic and headstrong Ellis brings an intense turn with shades of openness and vulnerability layered under an honest sensibility. Opposite is Jacob Lofland’s Neckbone (ala a young River Phoenix) who’s sensitive, nerdiness and vulgar-backwoods-mouthed Ying compliments Ellis’ Yang, 100%. For the rest of Mud, the majority of casting has been dealt solidly that even the fringe and supporting characters would be interesting on their own accords. Unfortunately, Mud‘s only real stick-out is a bland and underwhelming Juniper, illy-placed by Reese Witherspoon, who’s performance is so under-the-radar we barely are aware the actress being involved in the story, but to its strength the turn helps the audience root for Mud’s motivation even more.
As a possible grown-up Wonder Years, Mud presents itself as a mature telling of a daring and layered story of high esteem, friendship, family, independence and commitment to both oneself and those lives around us. At times the action is a little overshadowed and forbearing but one soon forgets as the entire film gives way to appealing storytelling and wonderfully motivated & truthful performances, deeply seeded in a pressure cooker that’s an intrinsically male-dominated community not seen in many of today’s film outings. Jeff Nichols has a penchant for distinctive filmmaking that is in-depth, insular and naturalistic in every project.Mud is a shade above what this director has already impressively tackled in the past, thus proving that Nichols gives hope that the film industry still has some honesty in it.
The review above in excerpt – catch full length FRF’s site HERE
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Fresh Roasted Rating: A
~ Matt Miles, 24/7 Contributor
Producer of Fresh Roasted Films
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