Most people will see Matthew McConaughey in this film and wonder where the hell this new actor came from. Clearly this can't be the same McConaughey from all those terrible chick-flicks? This must be a clone that was bred in a lab using Matthew's looks, but mixing DNA from super-actors grown and harvested in fields by giant machines with anal-probing tentacles...right? Right? Wrong. Since the Lincoln Lawyer a new McConaughey has emerged, burying the old McConaughey under a mountain of un-bought, paperweight, slop DVD's starring himself, and some ditsy broad. One can only hope this new McConaughey will remain.
Ellis (Tye Sheridan) just wants to live on a river, sell fish out the back of a pickup, punch seniors out cold, help murderers, and chase cute girls. His friend Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) just about wants the same thing, except add a little rebuilding of engines and talking about boobies. Their lives seem pretty straight-forward and regular, until they discover a boat stuck up in a tree. Now, anybody who's anybody knows that tree-boats are the new fad, and the higher and more ivy-infested the better. So when the boys happen upon this livable unicorn, they know instantly they need to make it their own. Only one problem: the elite habitat already has a resident, and he goes by the name Mud (Matthew McConaughey). You might wonder how one takes ownership of such a beautiful tree vessel. Well…by adorning it with a quarter loaf of bread and some porn magazines, of course. This puts Ellis and Neckbone in quite a pickle. And after some debating, they decide to help Mud in exchange for his glorious tree-boat. Southern love, confused hearts and a beautiful story ensue.
"How do you suppose it got up there?"
"Isn't it obvious? Someone put it there."
You might look at all the reviews out there or the very high score on RT and wonder if this movie is any good. Well, we're here to tell you to shake the crap out of your head and stop frigging debating. It's true, Soylent Green is people—er...I mean Mud is hands down, one of the best dramas this year. The film has it all: a perfect cast, great dialogue, beautiful cinematography, wonderful music...and you have to dig pretty darn deep to find reasons to dislike the story. But when you're going down that far, are those reasons even worth mentioning?
"One day, Ellis, you'll grow up to be just like me."
"Broke and running from the law?"
So who is this Mud? Matthew McConaughey could not have played this character any better. He embodies everything required to pull off a dingy, but charming individual. He keeps the character's friendship close to the boys, but far enough away that you'd still keep an eye on him if you were alone. McConaughey reminds you of the type of friend who always wants to hang out, but never has the money to do anything. The same person who never stops calling, so eventually they wear you down and you'll pick up the phone. But…but, he'll forever be your friend, because when the real serious crap actual does hit the fan, he'll be the first one there to help you out. Mud: slightly neurotic, always reliable.
Even though the movie may hold the title character's name, Ellis and Neckbone happen to be the real stars of the film. Without them perfectly cast, you'd have nothing more than McConaughey, dank and dirty, with his shirt off trying to impress Reese Witherspoon. (Though that may sound like fun to some people—thank you ladies—that would really just be another nail in the coffin to the movie industry and McConaughey's career) The boys and their antics throughout the film give off a slight Stand By Me feel, but generally bring their own southern appeal to both roles.
Mr. McConaughey, sir, we know Tye showed up today with the exact same lunch box,
but we still have a movie to finish. What do you say? Are you going to be a big-boy and help?
Jeff Nichols, both writer and director, said in past interviews that he wrote some of these characters with certain actors already in mind, and when he asked those actors—McConaughey included—they all said yes to the role. Being able to pull that off not only helped casting, but also took everyone's acting ability up several notches. Every actor/actress in this film—and I do mean every—perfectly steps into their character's shoes. Even General Zod (Michael Shannon) makes an appearance in the film as Neckbone's guardian/uncle. And after seeing him in this, you'll wonder what made him accept the role in Man of Steel.
"I can handle the drinking and the swearing, but running naked through a scene is down right wrong."
"But funny right?"
Now, even though Mud can be seen as a full throttle drama, tugging at all sorts of heart strings, it doesn't mean it's devoid of humor. Most of the characters in the film happen to be festering in the garbage-point of their lives, just hoping to get through another day, so their point of view and dialogue can be somber at times. But Neckbone (it's all in the name) is pulling the funny train all by himself, and is comfortable doing so. Whether he's trying to appeal to Ellis's moral compass or just talking about breasts and hard-ons, his line delivery and timing is perfect, making you chuckle almost every moment he's talking. He's the funny practical yin, to Ellis' contemplative yang.
"Listen to me. The leprechaun from the cereal box is real...and he wants to eat my brain."
WHY YOU MIGHT DISLIKE IT (SLIGHT SPOILERS):
Do you like your women nice, sophisticated and caring? Do you like them to not spend most their time kicking men in the balls? Well then you might have a slight problem with the women in this film. Throughout the story several women come into the picture and can be seen as a mere device or tool, just there to maintain the theme: sometimes love sucks and sometimes women suck, but most of the time love sucks because women suck. Is this a huge turn-off or mistake? Nope. The writer chose to write the female characters this way because writing them any other way wouldn't have worked for a complete Ellis story arc. There's also the business of people viewing the movie as a little slow. But this is resolved by having the narrative told through the boy's eyes, making the story refreshing, relatable and at times, fun.
"No, no, no...these are called words. Put a few together and you get a sentence."
Mud tackles a wide range of issues perfectly: friendship, family, morality, divorce, death, and love. With fantastic casting, well-rounded characters, perfect dialogue, an intriguing plot, and a kid named Neckbone, how the heck could you possibly go wrong? Well, you can't. Mud is definitely not a movie that should be passed up.
5 out of 5 stars (told you it was good)