Wednesday 29 May 2013

Movie Review: Mud

Meat and potatoes. No big budget special effects. No eye candy. An excellent story with well thought-out characters. No empty calories here; just meat and potatoes. You push yourself away from the dinner table and you feel satiated. It's been a good meal.

According to Wikipedia, the budget for this film was $10 million. Compare that to Fast and Furious 6 with a budget of $160 million or Star Trek Into Darkness pegged at $190 million or the $200 million spent on Iron Man 3. Is that comparison stunning or what? Just what the heck does ten million dollars get you? Well, humorously enough, it gets you 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, a near perfect score with critics everywhere lauding this as a masterpiece. Take that, Tony Stark.

But before anybody goes running off to the movie theatre, let me remind you that "masterpiece" in air quotes doesn't always translate into "popular". If you got a hankerin' for a car chase, this ain't the movie; Vin Diesel is probably what you're looking for. But as much as Domini Toretto (Vin Diesel's character in Fast & Furious) is a cartoon character in a special effects extravaganza, Matthew McConaughey's Mud and the rest of the cast are a fascinating cross-section of real America. This may not be the America we personally want to be a part of, but it is certainly a significant part of the population. These people are the 47%; these people are the uninsured. (Some references to the politics of the past year or so.) The great American dream is that any one of us can become a success. Work hard enough and you're going to make it. The problem, as I always point out, is that for every millionaire lottery winner out there, there are nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine losers. Mud is working at the lower end of the economic spectrum. Not everybody achieves success.

With a nod of thanks to the film critic Jim Emerson writing for the web site Roger Ebert, I quote the American literary critic Leslie Fielder:

"To be an American (unlike being English or French or whatever) is precisely to imagine a destiny rather than to inherit one; since we have always been, insofar as we are Americans at all, inhabitants of myth rather than history."

The central character, Mud, is a fugitive hoping to re-unite with his old girlfriend and escape to happily ever after. By mere chance, he manages to enlist the aid of two teenage boys who help refurbish an abandoned motorboat in which Mud and love will sail off into the sunset. Along the way, we are introduced to a number of side plots about the boys, their families, the girlfriend, and the reason why Mud is a fugitive. These aren't science fiction special effects; these are vignettes of life which could very well be a part of any of our lives.

Jeff Nichols did double duty as director and writer. He credits Mark Twain and the book Tom Sawyer as inspiration for the story. From The Hollywood Reporter:

"Tom Sawyer did something very specific. It captured a sense of being a child in a particular time in life," he says, then, at the risk of “hyperbole” adds, "Twain is the greatest American writer to have lived."

Final Word
I enjoyed it but admit this falls more into the category of an "art film". In other words, you have to be in a certain mood. Psychological dramas can be riveting if you're "into it" or boring as hell if you're not. Nevertheless, there should be enough action here, sometimes quirky action, to keep anybody keen to see what's coming up next. I recommend it and am once again reminded that good doesn't necessarily mean big budgets and special effects. Ten million dollars? Geesh, that's peanuts in the world of film making.


Rotten Tomatoes: Mud: 99%
Bolstered by a strong performance from Matthew McConaughey in the title role, Mud offers an engaging Southern drama that manages to stay sweet and heartwarming without being sappy.

Wikipedia: Mud (2012 film)
Mud is a 2012 American coming-of-age film written and directed by Jeff Nichols. The film stars Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Sam Shepard, and Reese Witherspoon. The film competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. It was shown at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2013, and had a limited release in select theaters on April 26, 2013.

official web site: Mud


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Anonymous said...

Ohhh, thanks for reviewing this. I'd been thinking about seeing it, but didn't want to waste the money on another Hollywood dog! Looking forward to it now.

William Quincy Belle said...

Oh, oh. If you don't like it, do I have to refund the price of admission? :-)

Anonymous said...

Nah, I'll be sure to go when I'm in the right artsy frame of mind!