19
May
2013
Brief: Mud
Brief: Mud
Jordan
Matthew McConaughey continues his recent winning streak. The film is a beautifully shot, wonderfully observed Tom Sawyer riff for modern times, following Ellis (Tye Sheridan, who is also excellent) and his friend Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) as they help McConaughey's fugitive and learn more about love and adulthood than they probably bargained for in the process. The film is novelistic, developing full characters out of moments and playing with motifs (in particular, an excellent recurring shot of one small body of water opening into a much larger body of water, symbolizing the characters' eyes being opened to adulthood and real-life struggles) better than any film in recent memory.

Its also very smart about the way relationships work, the particular blindness we all develop toward those we love, and the way blame gets thrown around even where it is not accurately attributed. It seems, at first blush, to view women as unfaithful betrayers primed to hurt or destroy a man if he turns around for even a second, but it slowly becomes clear that the film is playing a longer, smarter game. Every woman in the movie has particular, well thought out reasons for all of the things she does, and its only the willful blindness and immaturity of the men that paints those actions in a negative light. Reese Witherspoon seems misplaced here, not necessarily miscast (though I think that too), but certainly not needed, and Sarah Paulson once again leaves me wondering why she doesn't work more. Michael Shannon does much with the little screen time he is given, and continues to be captivating. Mud marks out Jeff Nichols as a filmmaker to watch. He has one-upped his last film, Take Shelter, here, and created an excellent, gorgeous, moving portrait of adolescence (both actual and of the type that extends well into adulthood), first love, and the way both of those things shape the people we eventually become.

Read more of Jordan's Film Criticism here
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