May 6, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Posted in 2013 | 1 Comment
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Young director, Jeff Nichols, brought us my favorite movie of 2011 (the brilliant “Take Shelter).  He’s now back with “Mud;” an evocative coming of age story set in rural Arkansas. Fourteen year old Ellis (Tye Sheriden) is a bit of a wide-eyed innocent living in a houseboat on a long river.  One day Ellis and his far more cynical friend Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) encounter Mud (Matthew McConaughey) living on a small island in the river.  Something about this man seems like trouble but Ellis is drawn to him, despite Neckbone’s good sense. The story flows at a pace as steady as the river’s, building it’s tensions while also showing us life in rural Arkansas.  Who Mud turns out to be and the story arc that surrounds him seems less important than the lessons Ellis learns along the way.  This is a film about love in all it’s forms: familial love, the love of friends, romantic love, the way love fails and, ultimately, the need to be loved.  Ellis is an innocent who learns a lot about what love is and what it isn’t and we watch that knowledge compete with what he wants love to be.  This is a film with action and danger and tension but it is really a sweet film about growing up.  Sheriden (“Tree of Life”) does a beautiful job of playing sensitive, idealistic Ellis and Lofland (in his first film) also shines as his more jaded friend.  McConaughey does sterling work and when you compare this performance to two recent ones (“Magic Mike” and “Killer Joe”), it really gives you a sense of his range as an actor.  The cast was rounded out with fantastic performances by Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Paulson, Ray McKinnon, Sam Shepard and Michael Shannon, each character displaying love (in all its strengths and weaknesses) in different ways.  From start to finish, this was a lovely film.


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  1. Great review Pete. The cast makes this movie so much better just by putting their hearts and souls into these fully-dimensional characters. Some of it is a bit over-stuffed with too much context and exposition, but still kept me glued as to what the hell is going to happen next with these characters that I care so much about.

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