Tuesday, April 30, 2013
This is what rehab looks like. No, not from drugs and alcohol; this kind of rehab happens when an actor known for a certain level or genre of work has the moxie to reinvent himself onscreen through some smart role choices. The actor here is Matthew McConaughey, and in Jeff Nicholls edgy, hypnotic Mud, he breaks out of B-grade action movies and rom-com Purgatory in a big way.
The tall tale that is Mud simmers with danger, disillusion, humor, and heart, and McConaughey's performance, smack in the center, radiates all of the above.
Imagine the rite-of-passage lyricism of Huckleberry Finn, laced with the Southern Gothic menace of Night of the Hunter, and you'll have an idea of the general tone of Mud. The setting is contemporary, but it's a timeless story of two 14-year-old boys growing up on the banks of the Mississippi River in rural Arkansas.
Ellis (Tye Sheridan) lives on ramshackle houseboat with his taciturn fisherman dad (Ray McKinnon) and his restless mom (Sarah Paulson). His buddy, Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), lives in a trailer nearby, under the sporadic supervision of his uncle, Galen (Michael Shannon).
One day, on an uninhabited island in the river, they discover a hungry, disheveled stranger called Mud (McConaughey) with a snake tattoo down one arm, a pistol stuck in the back of his jeans, and a line of down-home patter.
Like a character out of folklore, Mud is larger than life. He lights bonfires for good luck, wears a wolf's tooth sewn into his shirt for "protection," and spins highly improbable yarns. McConaughey maintains the tension between dangerous and fascinating, while also making the character convincingly lovelorn and vulnerable. It's a lovely piece of work. The two boy actors are astonishingly good, as well. (Read more)