Director: Jeff Nichols
Studio: Everest Entertainment
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland
Small, beautifully made and superbly acted, Mud is one of the better recent movies.
Writer-director Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter) spins an atmosphere-drenched tale set in Arkansas about a down-on-his-luck fugitive outlaw (Matthew McConaughey) hiding out on a deserted island on the Mississippi while two bored, troubled teenagers (Jacob Lofland, Tye Sheridan, both actors to watch) carry messages between him and the round-heeled love of his life (a good, gritty Reese Witherspoon), holed up in a cheap motel awaiting his signal to join him. McConaughey’s character likens her to “a dream you don’t wanna wake up from,” and it’s been a long time since Witherspoon stepped down from her pedestal and did some real acting. There’s also good stuff from a supporting cast which includes Michael Shannon, Joe Don Baker and Sam Shepard, but it’s McConaughey who is doing awards-caliber work here in what is clearly the performance of his career to date. He’s compelling, sympathetic and mesmerizing as the mysterious, deeply flawed guy in desperate need of a second chance.
The film, part Stand By Me-ish coming of age tale, party fairy tale, part full-on thriller, resonates with the spirit and energy of great American literature of the South—the influence of Mark Twain is evident and welcome. The thing slips out of the writer-director’s control during a way-too-long finale that defies belief, but what’s come before is so good, you may be willing to cut Mud some slack.