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Tyler

Mud (2012)

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I thought we had a thread for this already, but I tried every search I could think of and didn't see it. Ahem me if I missed it.



Looks kind of The Return, but in reverse.

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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Links to our threads on previous Jeff Nichols films Shotgun Stories (2007) and Take Shelter (2011).


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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In our Revanche thread, Overstreet mentioned his frustration (among other things) with how the plot seemed engineered in a way that forced a tidy, definite resolution on a messy movie. That aspect of Revanche didn't bother me; it's one of the things I liked about, actually. I did feel some of that frustration with Mud, though. For a movie that wants to feel meandering and organic, there were several times when I could feel the gears of the plot moving things forward. And while Mud is a messy movie in a lot of ways (the title is a clue to that, of course) by the end, nearly everything--Tom Blankenship's marksmanship, Uncle Galen's diving, May Pearl's betrayal, finally getting the boat in the water, the snakes in the pond, etc.--comes together in a fairly tidy manner.

At the same time, though, I like stories that don't waste characters and scenes, where everything is integral to the plot in multiple ways, and Mud is that kind of story.


It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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I'm mixed leaning positive on it. I thought McConaughey was great, and I admired the themes that Nichols was trying to convey, but it felt too controlled and calculated. About ten minutes into the film, I predicted that Ellis would be bitten by a cottonmouth and Mud would rush him to the hospital at great risk to himself. The film made WAY too big a deal about cottonmouths and snakebites for any other outcome. The three relationships had a very interesting dynamic but never drew me in, because the presentation felt too much like a technical exercise. I really liked Mud as a character, but Witherspoon had too little screen time for me to care about their relationship.

I also found it unbelievable that the bounty hunters would endanger the lives of four people, two of them kids, in order to kill Mud, and that the law officials would care so little about them.

Finally, the trailer should never have included the lines: "Every single thing you told me was a lie!" and "We're gonna pray for the death of the man who murdered my son. Knowing those aspects of the story undermined quite a bit of its emotional potential for me.


"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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I liked it quite a bit. The criticisms about the story structure feeling too contrived are fair enough, but if you can roll with that it all works pretty well. There are one or two exceptions, of course. The bounty hunters praying together was a bit weird--it seemed meant to make us sympathize with them a little, but their willingness to endanger innocent people, including children, made that impossible. It was nice to see more of Tye Sheridan, who had little to do in The Tree of Life (knowing Malick, he might well have had a more substantial part that was cut out). Also, I liked the guy in the motel who had a ten-second role saying "I don't wanna buy no damn fish!"

Finally, the trailer should never have included the lines: "Every single thing you told me was a lie!" and "We're gonna pray for the death of the man who murdered my son. Knowing those aspects of the story undermined quite a bit of its emotional potential for me.

Oh, for sure. I'm glad I missed the trailer for this one.

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Okay, time for me to catch up with this thread. But first... first impressions:

Shotgun Stories remains my favorite Jeff Nichols film — it has the most satisfying narrative, IMHO, and I think it will prove to be, in time, an American classic.

But Mud is very, very good. Nichols has learned a lot from Terrence Malick, obviously, and yet he's better than just an imitator. He's good with storytelling, great with developing authentic locations, better all the time with creating a persuasive soundscape, and he gets solid work from his actors.

I have some problems with how point-of-view works in this film. I've been led to believe we're seeing this story through Ellis's eyes, but when the POV starts cutting away from him, it feels like the storyteller has decided that this story's just too big for Ellis.

I wish he'd stuck to Ellis. Most of what we see away from the boy's perspective has to do with what we want to see (and, unfortunately, with things we've seen in other, lesser films... including one moment lifted so completely from Michael Mann's Heat that I was aggravated by it).

If he'd stuck to Ellis, the film would have ended in a better place. The last minute feels tacked on to make the film a bigger crowdpleaser.

Still, of all of the movies playing in American cineplexes this Memorial Day weekend, I suspect it's the one that will best stand the test of time.

Tye Sheridan, Sam Shepard, and Michael Shannon are a pleasure (I think I'm ready to call Shannon my favorite American actor). And Matthew McCounaughey? Well, no, I'm still not a fan. He works hard at this and — surprise, surprise — he's pretty good. But I wish they'd cast somebody with a less-distracting tabloid-happy presence. I'd have loved to see Joaquin Phoenix, or maybe Timothy Olyphant, or Josh Brolin in the role.

But I was thrilled to find the shopping-center theater 3/4 full for the Mud Memorial Day matinee. Seattle, I love you.

My wife liked the film more than I did. I found it a touch sexist. Men who are constant; women who are fickle.

There are men in the film who treat the women as though they are fickle, but in the end, the women have good reason for pulling away from the stubborn, naive, dishonest, and often violent men. This has been the strongest thread uniting Nichols' films so far, I think. The wife in Shotgun Stories has good reasons for leaving; Chastain's character has equally good reasons for freaking out about her husband's behaviors.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Well. I might as well post my comments here as well. smile.png

Yep. My wife and I both really liked it as well. McCounaghey might possibly be too celebrity for this story, but as indicated he created a fantastic character. The interwoven themes of marriage or girlfriend/boyfriend relationships was well done, and at the end of the film fairly wise, I'd think.

I found their particular sub-culture to be sad and disturbing at times (also read sexist as Darrel Manson mentioned). But to my mind that wasn't a fault of the film. If anything it shows the films strengths to depict it so well, and I didn't pick up that the film was agreeing with a lot of what it was presenting. At the end Mud's point expressed to the young man left us with a fairly healthy view of man/woman relationships, and we were left with the young man seeming to have a regard for this, and an indication that he might take a better direction than the adults in this story.

Edited by Attica

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Attica wrote:

: McCounaghey might possibly be too celebrity for this story, but as indicated he created a fantastic character.

I liked McConaughey a lot and thought he worked much better here than he did in, say, Bernie (which is a film that I really liked, but I was never convinced that McConaughey really "fit" there, at least on first viewing). The only thing I found really distracting about him here was his two front teeth, which I assume were false, but still, the fact that I was even thinking about them...

Then there is Reese Witherspoon, who famously got arrested just before this movie came out. I had actually forgotten she was even *in* the film until I saw it last night, and I didn't even recognize her at first; during our first glimpse of her, I thought she was the woman who had stormed out of Michael Shannon's place. Once I realized who it was, though, I started wondering if the film really needed a star of her stature in the role... and I decided maybe it did, to "justify" the McConaughey character's attraction to / obsession with her...

Anyway. I liked the film quite a bit, contrivances and all -- certainly compared to everything *else* that is playing in the multiplex right now -- and I'm glad this film actually made it out to the 'burbs this week.

Darrel Manson:

: My wife liked the film more than I did. I found it a touch sexist. Men who are constant; women who are fickle.

I thought there was some ambiguity around the kid's parents' relationship, at least. The mother's insistence that "I *deserve* that" certainly didn't rub my ears the right way, but I also had some questions re: whether the film was actually buying into the idea that a man ought to fulfill certain functions within the home.

Tyler wrote:

: Joe Don Baker . . . I was honestly surprised he's still alive.

Heh. Me too, sort of! I wasn't surprised that he was *alive*, per se, but it occurred to me that I couldn't remember the last time I'd seen him in a film. (Was it the Dalton-Brosnan Bond films, maybe?) ... Okay, I checked the IMDb, and apparently this is only his second film since the big-screen Dukes of Hazzard (2005). So I guess that's where I saw him last -- eight years ago.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Peter T Chattaway said:

:certainly compared to everything *else* that is playing in the multiplex right now

Ha. I had thought something similar. Although I'd check out STILL MINE if its at your local Empire Canadian theatre. But really, I'd say that the summer movie season is off to a bit of a slow start.

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I have a favorite movie of the year finally, and it took til August for me to find it but Jeff Nichol's Mud is easily the best movie this year. It's a Mark Twainish romp in Southern Arkansas about a boy learning some hard truths while still keeping hope and belief in the possible.

I loved it.

Will be hard for any more upcoming movies to beat it, and I will be surprised if any do. This is my Moonrise Kingdom of this year.

 

 

 

 

Also I have to agree with Jeff about Michael Shannon. The talk between his character and Ellis on the couch, and the moment he's asking Neck if he's okay are filled with such fatherly emotion and tension that they're easily my favorite parts of the movie.

And yes Mud's teeth distracted me. I think they were supposed to give him a more hickish look, but they just made him look a bit goofy to me.

Also I was so glad to see Ray McKinnon I think I did a little cheer. Love everything that man is in.

I think this reminded me a lot of Gordon Green's Undertow, in ways, but the town itself was so reminiscent of Shotgun Stories I'd be surprised if they weren't the same town.

And Tye, I like him a lot. He's gonna go on to be a pretty great actor I think, though I kinda loved Neck too, he was so Arkansas.

Alright...I'm gonna stop gushing now.

 

Edited by Justin Hanvey

"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

Justin's Blog twitter Facebook Life Is Story

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I heard Nichols interviewed on the Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith, and the point was made that in all three of his films, his characters have a set of beliefs or convictions that guide their actions.  While Mud's superstitions certainly guide his decisions in this film, his voice isn't the loudest.  It's the voice of Ellis, who has a conviction that Love is worthy of pursuit, and no matter how much his picture of it has been faded, his convictions never changed.  

 

My take on Mud on Letterboxd.

Edited by MatthewBradham

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