Mississippi Grind Screen 16 articles

Mississippi Grind

2015

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  • Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s faux-hearty picaresque tale, about two gamblers on a road trip from Iowa to New Orleans, strains after atmosphere and only feigns a shaggy-¬dog free-spiritedness... Under their direction, Mendelsohn tips his hand and Reynolds channels the hangdog machismo of another cinematic Ryan—namely, Gosling. The actors flaunt craft, the script lays on the folksiness with a trowel, and scenes of local color seem to come straight from a guidebook.

  • It’s also worth noting a handful of additional notable performances that transcended their material: Ben Mendelsohn as an eternally doomed gambler—is there any other kind?—in Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s wearisome Seventies cinema–inspired Mississippi Grind(co-star Ryan Reynolds looked that much more lost next to Mendelsohn’s subtle genius)...

  • Mississippi Grind not only refuses to indulge in the easy pleasures of dramatic momentum, but it pushes its luck by meandering towards a bizarrely extended series of possible endings. This reluctance to conclude, and the consequent suspension of our judgment on the characters and of their fate’s resolution, seems to point to a burning desire on the part of the filmmakers to be directing this story as a TV series instead.

  • Sight & Sound: Trevor Johnston
    October 02, 2015 | November 2015 Issue (pp. 86-87)

    Mississippi Grind makes no bones about its 1970s inspirations, and though its ultimately soft-centred approach to a subject strongly resistant to such mollification is likeable enough, it remains some distance from the celluloid decade that specialised in the bleakly unsettling freeze-frame ending.

  • [Mendelsohn] gets so deeply inside the skin of a born loser that it’s a shame that the script insists on having him shed it in the end; as in their earlier Half Nelson, which hedged on its protagonist’s drug addiction, directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck insist on mining the scenario for redemption. In the process, they undermine Mendelsohn’s harrowing portrait of a man who always makes his own bad luck—the filmmaking equivalent of a suffering a bad beat on the river card.

  • The film’s grittiness and weary pathos ultimately gives way to a disappointingly pat finale, and while some effort is made to undermine/qualify the implausibly happy ending, it just ain’t enough. Both actors are superb, though—Mendelsohn has the showier role and is getting most of the attention, but Reynolds, as the “stable” one, demonstrates again that he’s much more than a ridiculously pretty face.

  • Despite the film's relentless familiarity (with its class concerns, dingy poker tables, and notable attention to lounge singers, much of the film is a clear homage to Robert Altman's great California Split) and aggressively scripted dialogue, Boden and Fleck convey an engagingly low-key atmosphere, pervasive with wayward souls haunted by poor choices.

  • Shot with an eye for claustrophobic mood by the filmmakers’ regular DP Andrij Parekh, and with Jade Healy’s production design perfectly evoking a certain glitter-gilded drabness, the film achieves a resonant intimacy, a sense of aimless drift in an endless American night. Mississippi Grind is a derivative film, one that looks back ruefully, but that makes it all the more haunting and emotionally effective.

  • A film that turns on this kind of ambiguity would ordinarily be cold, grim, paranoid. But Boden and Fleck give this world texture and warmth; their widescreen interiors glow, and it’s hard not to be lulled into them by the siren song of conversation and clinking drinks and possibility.

  • Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (of Half Nelson fame) attempt to reverse-engineer this secret formula [from California Split] for their latest feature, Mississippi Grind, a near remake of the Altman classic which doesn’t quite carry the transcendent cosmic weight of its forebear. The film earns major points for giving Ben Mendelsohn a proper, meaty character to tussle with, no longer psychotic second banana or madballs deus ex machina.

  • Despite Boden and Fleck’s narrative embellishments, Mississippi Grind is still very much a movie about lovable losers, leaning hard on the charisma of its two stars. Mendelsohn plays Gerry as a stringy, sweaty hunk of pure desperation, while Reynolds, as the ostensibly more stable partner, demonstrates yet again that he’s much more than a ridiculously pretty face. Their chemistry together doesn’t recall Gould and Segal so much as it does Keitel and De Niro.

  • The almost-irrelevant title can only be a conscious echo of California Split, and that film's shambling energy is the model here - though this one dials down the edge even more, studiously avoiding the sports-movie machismo of gambling dramas and even the jargon (poker players can drive you nuts with their jargon), big hands mostly explained in layman's terms. What Ben Mendelsohn does here is amazing, playing the scumbag/loser/"bad person" but bringing something slack-jawed and wide-eyed too.

  • The moody, measured intelligence and exceptional skill with actors long evinced by filmmakers Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (“Half Nelson,” “Sugar”) once again serves them well in “Mississippi Grind,” a bittersweet, beautifully textured road movie that plays like a conscious throwback to the lost souls and open highways of 1970s American cinema.

  • It’s rare now for an American movie to spend two hours on characters whose behavior, on a human scale, is suspenseful and surprising. There are a couple of scenes, in which Mendelsohn stands in front of a dresser and another when he stares into a safe, when my heart started to break with pity. This is a film about a particular kind of bottom. In its comic-tinged unhappiness, it is to gambling what John Huston’s marvelously grave Fat City is to boxing.

  • Boden and Fleck stay on the actors' faces, sometimes in closeup and other times in medium shot, and watch the play of emotions on their faces, letting uncomfortably quiet pauses and moments of misunderstanding and delusion hang there rather than cutting the scene for time or filling the background with busy action. The movie makes more expressive use of very tight closeups and very slow zooms and meaningful reflections than any American movie since "Inherent Vice."

  • From its unshowy script on down, Mississippi Grind is content to rumble along as a character piece, keeping its storytelling loose and unpredictable, like a repeat flick of the dice. It’s a significant recovery for writer-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, valuable players on the American indie scene... Their work is best when it’s grounded in a palpable and slightly desperate reality, as it is here.

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