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Saturday, December 7, 2013


The McConeissance continues...

This review is also up at Channel 24

What it's about

Two young boys, living on the banks of a river in Arkansas, meet and befriend a mysterious fugitive who has taken up residence on a nearby island and promise to help him escape the bounty hunters who are after him and to reunite him with his lost love.

What we thought

Finally, after having been pushed back and then pushed back again, Mud has finally arrived on our shores (insert own pun here) and it's more than worth the wait. It's even worth the fact that they had the press screening of the film something like three or four months ago so I had to head over to Google to get a refresher course on the specifics of the plot.

Continuing both Matthew McConaughey's career-revitalizing “McConeissance” and the recent trend of excellent coming-of-age films, Mud is far more deserving of your time than its pun-tastic but otherwise completely non-descriptive title would suggest. This is yet another wonderful, unassuming little gem for anyone who has the good taste to be won over by the likes of Stand By Me and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Stand By Me, in particular, is an especially excellent touchstone for what to expect with Mud. Like Rob Reiner's 1980s classic, Mud is a story of young boys, on the brink of adolescence, who embark on a relatively dangerous, crime-based adventure to assert their independence. It even has a similarly rustic backdrop. There's a bit more adult involvement this time as one of the boys strikes up a friendship with the titular Mud and the crime element is a bit more pronounced (culminating in a perhaps ill-advised shoot up) but it's very much in the same line of storytelling and if you like Stand By Me – and really, what's wrong with you if you don't? - then there's no reason on earth for you not to love Mud as well.

Much has already been made of McConaughy's brilliant performance in the film and rightly so. Building off of similarly exceptional performances in the likes of Killer Joe and Barney and building up to apparently stellar work in The Wolf of Wall Street and Dallas Buyers Club, his turn as the enigmatic and likeable, yet subtly threatening Mud only confirms how committed the actor has been to turning his career around – and how successful he has so far been. Indeed, I can't think of another actor who has had this kind of career turnaround, from laughing stock to incredibly well respected thespian, in so short a time. Sure, he still takes off his shirt a few times in the film but that's more of a nod to the past and, unbelievably, an actual plot point, rather than the sum total of his acting ability.

Revelatory as McConaughy once again is (though, at this point, can we really call yet another top notch performance from the guy “revelatory”?), it's important not to overlook the other massively talented individuals involved in this production. His young co-stars, Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland, are especially good, easily keeping up with the adults in the cast (including the likes of Reese Witherspoon and Michael Shannon) and convincing entirely as these two spirited, wonderfully drawn teenagers.

And then, of course, there's writer/ director Jeff Nichols who teams up once again with his Take Shelter cinematographer, Adam Stone, to create a piece of filmmaking that is as charming as it is moving as it is visually striking. In terms of tone, it is a radical departure from his breakthrough film but it's a wildly successful follow up that's almost as good and a whole lot more easily enjoyable.

There's a number of bigger films coming out this week – and one or two of them are even good – but nothing as good as this. It will probably have a fairly limited release though, so be sure not to let it pass you by.  

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