SXSW Review: ‘Mud’ starring Matthew McConaughey

mud posterMatthew McConaughey has had such an incredible run of performances the past two years, hasn’t he? It started with The Lincoln Lawyer (go watch it) and Bernie, then continued on with Killer Joe, The Paperboy and Magic Mike. Who else in recent memory can you think of that has been on fire like he’s been?

Well, his hot streak continues with the absolutely wonderful, Mud.

Written and directed by Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter), the film is about two boys, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), who come across a guy named Mud (McConaughey) hiding out on an island in the Mississippi. Mud claims to be running from some bounty hunters after killing a man that harrassed his one true love, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). Eventually, the two boys form a plan to help Mud rescue Juniper and escape the bounty hunters.

The film works for so many different reasons.

First of all, any movie that features Piggly Wiggly prominently in several scenes is alright with me. Secondly, Sheridan and Lofland are great young actors who are playing real kids, not Hollywood versions of what they think kids are. They are kids being kids. The film starts off with the two of them looking for an adventure, finding it and seeing where it takes them. Even when they are in the midst of some crazy, and sometimes potentially deadly circumstances, they are still kids and still care about the important stuff. “Did you touch her titty?,” Neckbone asking Ellis at one point. These two are so convincing that you wonder how much acting was actually involved but I’m going to love watching these two evolve and grow.

It’s also about loving a woman; finding out what it really is and how it can sometimes drive a man – both young and old – mad. It’s about love between fathers and sons (real fathers and father-like) and the lengths the dad’s will go to to protect and help their kids.

McConaughey, complete with chipped tooth and wild hair, spends 90% of the film stranded on the island fixing the boat with the kids. He just commands the screen with his presence. He’s always got a story to tell and most of the time, you’re wondering if it’s real or some made up craziness… but whatever it is, you can’t wait for another one to come out of his mouth. He could probably play this character in his sleep by now but he just went to work going so deep that what he’s done, mining the depths of this guy, is just out of this world great.

And if you’re a Michael Shannon fan, he’s got a very small role but also some of the funniest lines in the whole film.

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