Mud star Matthew McConaughey has been on quite a run of late. In the last 12 months alone, he has turned in incredible work in Magic Mike, Killer Joe, The Paperboy and Bernie. The best of his thespian triumphs of the last year arrives this weekend with Mud.
As shown in the Mud trailer, McConaughey is the title character, a man who finds himself on the wrong side of the law who simply wants to reunite with the love of his life (Reese Witherspoon).
In many ways, Mud isn’t McConaughey’s movie. That distinction belongs to the young actor Tye Sheridan (Tree of Life). Sheridan is Ellis, a 14-year-old boy trying to make sense of life along the Mississippi river. His father and mother are not getting along and his pop’s way of life, living off the river from his houseboat, is starting to become extinct.
Ellis and his best friend, Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), routinely head out on the river in their boat. On one particular day they explore a deserted island and find a boat stranded up in a tree, left by a recent flood. Climbing into the tree and into the vessel, they learn that someone is living there. That person is Mud.
For some reason, they are taken with Mud and his story. Ellis, in particular, is compelled to do anything he can to help him realize his dream of reuniting with the love of his life and to aide him to get out of town. Ellis runs into Witherspoon’s Juniper at a local Piggly Wiggly, and eventually becomes entangled in her life and lies. Juniper is not all she seems from the stories from Mud.
Further complicating things is Mud’s asking Ellis to seek help from his houseboat neighbor Tom (Sam Shepard). The audience is led to believe that Shepard’s character may be Mud’s father, but we just don’t know for sure. Shepard, as usual, gives us his steely grace -- why isn’t this guy working more?!
Witherspoon is honestly hardly in the film, although she turns in a performance that is nothing like we’ve seen her do before. Juniper is hardly an angel, despite what Mud thinks and in the Oscar winner’s hands, it is pure perfection.
Writer-director Jeff Nichols astounds us again after his stellar work on his last film, the Michael Shannon starring Take Shelter.
This guy knows how to weave a yarn and also paints a picture with rural characters that are about as far from stereotypes as exist. Our Mud review highlights the fact that Nichols film is not a cut and dry, right and wrong movie by any means. There are a whole lot of shades of grey in its lessons about life and living for love.