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Mud

Mud

What She said:

She

It seems like it’s been quite some time since I’ve come across a truly decent coming-of-age type film.  There’s the classic Stand By Me, to which so many others in this genre are often compared.  But nothing particularly strong in modern memory.  Thankfully, Mud has come along to offer something new and refreshing. 

Mud tells the story of Ellis and Neckbone, two teenage boys  from Arkansas who live along the Mississippi River.  They lead very simple lives.  They work at home with their family—Ellis helping his father sell fish and Neckbone assisting his uncle who dives for mussels.  Aside from that, they don’t really do much of anything.  So, as the movie begins, we follow the boys as they head down to a remote island in the river where there is a fairly nice boat abandoned up in a tree.  I’m assuming it ended up there as a result of a flood.  Anyway, the boys stake claim over it and decide that they will try to get it down and patch it up.  But, they quickly realize that someone has been living there.  That’s when they meet Mud, a generally friendly fella who, like Ellis and Neckbone, is a little rough around the edges.  He says that he’s waiting on the island for the love of his life, Juniper, to join him.  Ellis and Neckbone agree to help Mud, bringing him food and a friendship starts to develop.  As the movie progresses, we find out more about the mystery man in the boat.  He’s a wanted man, and he doesn’t only have the police hot on his trail; a lot of angry people are chasing him.  The boys continue to help Mud, and through the experience learn a good deal about life, love, and the perils of the real world.

Mud tells an intriguing story and is very effective as a coming-of-age flick.  There’s a lot of showing, not telling, and so it’s left to the viewer to observe much of the growth in the two boys.  It’s most apparent in Ellis, who begins the movie as extremely trusting, naïve, and somewhat green when it comes to love.  He still believes in the notion of true love, and even thinks that he’s fallen in love with an older girl.  Neckbone is sort of the opposite.  When he first meets Mud he questions everything the guy says, not believing him.  As the film evolves, Ellis is made aware of how adult relationships work, the gray areas of love, and how complex these relationships can be.  Neckbone, meanwhile, actually learns to trust Mud.  In some sense, we know that Mud is just using the boys to try to flee from those who are chasing him, but an authentic friendship begins to develop, and everyone in the movie—Mud, Ellis, Neckbone, Juniper, and their families—are ultimately affected.

Mud

Ellis and Neckbone are played by relative newcomers Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland.  In fact, Lofland has only ever appeared in Mud and was a local selection for the film.  Both young actors are quite good.  Matthew McConaughey plays Mud, and he also puts in a solid performance.  In my opinion, McConaughey has chosen some very good roles lately that have helped to establish him as a truly talented actor.  Thank goodness he stepped away from cheap and cheesy rom coms.  Reese Witherspoon steps in as Juniper, the love her and hate her girlfriend to Mud.  Every character in this film is authentic and well-acted.  In fact, the film in general has a Southern flare that makes it feel deeply genuine.  There was a 10 minute learning curve during the opening of the flick where I couldn’t really understand half of what the kids were saying because of their accents.

Mud is exactly what the film needed to be—fascinating to watch, rewarding, and wonderfully acted from beginning to end.  I suggest checking this one out.

Thumbs up.

 

What He said:

He

I don’t hide the fact that I prefer movies with an element of escapism. Whether it’s an action flick with heroes performing impossible feats, a sci fi movie with robots or monsters trying to destroy all of humanity, or even something that is only slightly fantastical, I am drawn to movies that make me feel like I can disappear from everyday life. Everyday life is boring. That’s not to say I don’t like realistic movies, I just favor ones that take me away from the real world for a little while.

Mud

That being said, if something has a sense of adventure, a good story, but is grounded in reality, I’m game for that. That’s really what Mud is too. Mud is definitely a coming of age story, but it’s also got elements of a mystery/thriller and even a crime drama at times.

Mud is about two boys who meet a mysterious guy who lives on an island on the Mississippi River. Ellis and Neckbone (I love his name by the way) are to regular southern boys. Ellis (Tye Sheridan) lives on a houseboat with his parents and helps his father sell fish. Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) is being raised by his uncle (Michael Shannon) and helps him dive for mussels. During their down time, the boys ride around town on Neckbone’s dirt bike, explore the Mississippi in a little motorboat the boys have, and explore the surrounding woods.

While exploring a small island, they find a boat that appears to have been washed ashore during a flood. The boat is in a tree, which sounds pretty badass to me, so I can imagine how cool it is to two young boys. It’s like finding a free clubhouse. They have big plans for the boat until – during one of their visits – they discover someone has been living in it. Naturally, they are a little freaked out and flee the scene. When they make it back to their boat on the bank of the river, they meet the mysterious inhabitant of “their” boat/clubhouse.

Mud (Matthew McConaughey) is living out in the wilderness on his own with little to live off of. This is where the kids come in. Mud asks if they can help him out and get him some food. Neckbone wants nothing to do with him, but Ellis is intrigued by him. His parents are also having problems, so anything that gets him out of the house is appealing.

As time goes on Mud asks for more-and-more help and the boys become more involved in his life. What does this guy want? Is he going to harm them? They’re out in the middle of nowhere with a guy who lives in the woods after all. What the hell is Mud doing out there to begin with? These are just some of the questions you find yourself asking as you watch the movie. You’ll not only get answers, but will also see them unfold in a very deliberate, but engaging pace.

I thought this movie was absolutely fantastic. It is so very simple in one sense, but has so many layers you can’t help but be intrigued. First and foremost, it’s a coming of age story. Ellis’ parents have a rocky relationship, he has recently met his first love, and has found a new sense of purpose in helping Mud. It’s also a bit of a thriller. You don’t know who the hell Mud is, why he is hiding out in the middle of nowhere, and what his intentions are. As the story progresses the stakes are raised for both Mud and the boys and you will be on the edge of your seat by the end of it.

Mud

The acting is superb. McConaughey is fantastic as Mud. He’s this guy who is living on an island of the Mississippi. This has a horror movie scenario written all over it. You can’t help and wonder if the boys lives are in danger, but he’s also intriguing as hell. Like Ellis, you simply want to know more about him. And speaking of Ellis, Tye Sheridan was phenomenal as the lead. I have never heard of this kid before, but I have a feeling we will be seeingmore from him in the future. He brought a lot of heart to the role. The kid who plays Neckbone (Jacob Lofland)has even less acting experience than Sheridan, but you’d never know it. These two kids were excellent. They brought so much credibility and realism to the characters. Reese Witherspoon and Sam Shepard are also excellent in supporting roles.

I’d be shocked if this doesn’t win some sort of award next year.

Diagnosis: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on August 22, 2013.

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