Mud Screen 19 articles



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  • If Mud lacks anything, it’s this sense of vitality. While it’s as equally concerned with change as Nichol’s previous work, Mud fails to instill palpable tension in its very standard and melodramatic story.

  • What sounds like Huckleberry Finn on the page, however, ends up like a stock melodrama onscreen, with McConaughey’s nature boy coming off like a moody, brooding fratboy. It isn’t the actor’s fault per se—he’s one of the few working actors who you believe could actually live off the land, thousands of miles away from the nearest Bel Air mansion—but his Mud is purely a screenwriter’s creation, a lazy sketch of an archetype.

  • Nichols displays his typical flair for small-town minutiae and flavorful rural slang; like Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter, the movie works best when just quietly tracing the rhythms of its richly sketched milieu. But atmosphere can't carry the entire day, especially in a nearly two-and-a-half-hour film. Repetitiveness remains Nichols's worst habit as a writer...

  • The harshness and the beauty of this economically depressed setting... is vividly rendered in gritty widescreen compositions that give the proceedings an appropriately fablelike air. But despite the best efforts of a cast that mixes unstudied newbies such as The Tree of Life’s Sheridan with Hollywood prima donnas like Reese Witherspoon (a starlet-slumming-it distraction as Mud's dim-bulb inamorata), there’s an overall clunkiness that Nichols is unable to overcome.

  • [The characters] can only be as richly developed as the places they inhabit—full of intriguing details, but somehow centerless, unbounded, unmoored. It’s only in those rare moments when Mud places its characters in the service of its setting, rather than the other way around, that the film really opens up...

  • Nichols attempts to update the gender politics with a late speech from Mud, but the film remains wide open to complaints about its old-fashioned boyishness. Sometimes it feels like screenwriters are like the high school girls McConaughey's Dazed and Confused character so prizes: We keep getting older, and they keep staying the same age.

  • After the terse, teasing ambiguities of ‘Shotgun Stories’ and ‘Take Shelter,’ it’s disappointing just how conventional the director’s latest is, its Hollywood sensibility building throughout the narrative to a ludicrous climactic shootout.

  • It’s an appropriately groan-worthy finale to Nichols’ wholesale abandonment of his regionally developed artistry for the hollow husks of national myth. Rather than clinging to his precious talismans of pre-fab seriousness, Nichols should rather have taken the advice of another Southern gentleman and killed his darlings.

  • Great when it’s suggesting a world inhabited by former children who are now adults only nominally, all of them still clinging to simplistic conceptions of love and life (the dad’s tears in his beer sentimentalism / Mud’s righteous obsession with a girl who’s just not that into him). This outlook gets muddied as we stretch past the 100 minute mark however, and things gradually sag into mushy incoherence...

  • Because Nichols’ previous film was the offbeat, heavily metaphorical Take Shelter, some are bridling at his unapologetic embrace of the Hollywood three-act structure, and it’s true that Mud neither breaks new ground in the coming-of-age genre nor feels compelled to disguise its familiar story beats. It’s just a reasonably good yarn, heavier on incident than psychological acuity...

  • Mud's lively sense of humor sometimes milks laughs from movie conventions that might otherwise seem hackneyed.

  • Despite its overstuffedness of plot and character, Mud ultimately succeeds thanks to small details, from its deep-fried lingo and the swampy texture of its location photography to its uniformly expert cast. The real knockout is Sheridan, whose pubescent Charles Bronson-esque demeanor is instantly winning and ultimately used to moving effect.

  • With the exception of certain aspects of its denouement, the film, written and directed by Jeff Nichols, avoids the clichés and easy answers that most coming-of-age stories peddle and instead shows the abundance of humor, frustration, and sadness that is part and parcel of this tender age.

  • Could've done with one less of all of those [between the three sets of romantic relationships and filial relationships], because 131 minutes of this is just diminishing returns. Still, for an hour I thought I was looking at one of the key movies of the year; after the overdetermined Take Shelter, it's nice to see Nichols letting the film breathe, and his sense of a very specific place is almost painfully keen.

  • Nichols balances this narrative asperity with surprising deftness—he maintains a sense of evenness while the drama unfolds, a hallmark of his work to date. Such continuity can somewhat be attributed to his aesthetic; like his contemporaries Terrence Malick and David Gordon Green, Nichols has an unusual eye for agrarian wonder.

  • Nice performances, esp. the boys - but Mud himself seems more of a slacker than the charismatic Magwitch figure one expects, fleshing out Ellis' folks is admirable but I can't think of a single really distinctive thing they do (maybe when she knocks the husband's cap off?), and having Michael Shannon without using him - even beyond the puzzling hints that his character had more to do in an earlier draft - verges on the sadistic.

  • Equal parts 'Huckleberry Finn' and Stand By Me, with a swirl of Spielbergian wonderment and Cormac McCarthy colloquialism, Mud is a thrilling, unapologetically sweet and occasionally melodramatic coming-of-ager that confidently handles a variety of themes – true love, innocence, companionship, divorce, revenge, sacrifice, heroism (both real and perceived). It’s also... a bittersweet (but ultimately optimistic) ode to a dying way of life.

  • Though well-received, Mud has been somewhat misunderstood as a lighter, shallower breather for Nichols following the emotional intensity of Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter. The film's tone is trickier and more ambitious than many have suggested, as Nichols manages to spin a traditional boy's adventure that quietly asserts a child's eventual need to resist the streamlined moral simplicity that tends to characterize such stories if he's to have much hope of happiness.

  • What was so powerful about this film? ...To begin, there is something fundamental in the storytelling—something close to nature. One of the very first scenes of the film is captured from a moving boat so that the pace of the film truly aligns with the rhythm of the Mississippi River, where the tale takes place. Going forward, we see that Mud continues to move like the river, the story unfolding with the same smooth, slow-rolling tension.

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