Sunday, May 19, 2013
3 Thoughts on Mud
1. The kids - The reason this movie works so well is because of the kids. Fantastic characters; fantastic actors. Sure, the movie is titled "Mud" and the poster is plastered with McConaughey, but the story is told from the perspective of these two young boys. Two young boys, Ellis and "Neckbone", who don't quite understand the way life (and love) works. Tye Sheridan, as Ellis, is one of the best young actor performances I've seen in a while. He's everything you want him to be - tough, courageous, inquisitive, vulnerable. While, "Neckbone", played by newcomer Jacob Lofland, is there as more of a comic relief character; he still displays layers to his character with beautiful subtlety. I rarely like kids in movies; even though my favorite movies include Stand By Me and The Goonies. Nowadays, kids are boring on-screen - too tech-savvy, too spoiled, too materialistic (with the exception of Super 8). I miss the kids that go on adventures!! They're still out there and they are far more interesting.
2. Mud - Matthew McConaughey is on a role. A fucking role. Why on Earth has he wasted so much time making movies like Fool's Gold?? He is perfection in this role. You could tell he reveled in the role, I mean, he is practically shirtless, dirty and sweaty for the entire movie, which is pretty much a description of McConaughey all the time in real life. I loved that we never get any definitive information about Mud - he is a mystery and will remain that way. I was surprised by the ending of Mud's story, considering that all that we know about Mud is what the kids learn about him (plus I expected more of a Take Shelter ending); but then I thought maybe this ending is what the kids interpret his ending to be - and that makes me love the movie even more.
3. The misogyny - There are many themes of the movie - some say it's a story of love and heartbreak. Others, say it's about a loss of innocence (a coming-of-age story). For me, the movie tackles a big question: Why do men hate women? I actually don't think that is writer/director, Jeff Nichols', intention (and that is part of the problem), but from my perception of the story (aka a feminist perception), it's a tale of men learning to hate women at a very young age. There are three women in the film; all three are villainous, especially from the perspective of these kids. Sure, there are actual gun-toting "villains" in the movie, but in the grand scheme of things, women are responsible for the events that unfold. The most obvious representation of this is in Juniper, Mud's "true love". Juniper, played by Reese Witherspoon (aka the weak link of the movie), is a troubled woman who, as told in stories, attaches herself to abusive men and then tricks poor Mud into saving her. She's given a "manipulative" woman trait and is never given the opportunity to explain herself. We are given one glimpse of pure emotion from her, that hints to Ellis that there is, in fact, more to her story, but does he really understand that? From a kids point of view, she is someone who has deceived Mud instead of loving him. Women in cyclical abusive relationships aren't in these relationships because they enjoy it; and this story is clearly placing blame on the wrong gender (as in real life). Whether it is because of abuse, molestation, rape, etc, as a child or young adult, women are like this because a man fucked them up. Instead of focusing on the consequences of male aggression, we teach young boys that women will destroy their lives, and the cycle begins. Ellis is also dealing with his parents divorcing because his mother wants a better life. For most of the movie, she has no other characteristic, other than crushing his fathers dreams. We only get a small glimpse of her side of the story - the fact that she has spent her whole life living for him, instead of herself, and he has done nothing. Even though we get these small glimpses of something more complicated, I don't think it's enough. These female characters represent a clear hatred of women all disguised as "love" - you know, women are evil, but don't give up on love because you'll find one who is worth it. To be clear, despite what it represents, I LOVE this movie.