Quentin: We’re posting this a day earlier than usual because Ben and Travis are taking us sailing this weekend for Cade’s birthday. We’re leaving for the lake right after school, so no time for a movie.
Jake: Finally, summer and sailing. I can’t wait.
Jason: And Quentin’s graduating from high school.
Jake: Is it getting real?
Quentin: I don’t want to talk about it.
Jason: So we went to see Mud today, because Jake kept pointing out the 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Quentin: Are we ready to swim against the tide of critical consensus?
Jake: Let’s do it.
Jason: We didn’t hate the movie, but we didn’t like it either.
Quentin: Who wants to recap this week?
Jake: I will. This is a movie about two 14-year-old boys who live on the Mississippi River in Arkansas.
Jason: Ellis and Neckbone.
Jake: Yes. Those are the names of the two boys. One day they head out to an island in the middle of the river to investigate a tree with a boat in its branches.
Jason: The result of a flood.
Quentin: Don’t you love the way he keeps interrupting you?
Jake: I don’t even notice it anymore. While checking out this boat in a tree…
Jason: Which is a pretty cool image.
Jake: …Ellis and Neckbone meet Mud, a sketchy character played by Matthew McConaughey. It took me about two seconds to figure out Mud is on the run, and the two boys get involved in a plan to reunite Mud with his great love, Juniper, a leggy blonde played by Reese Witherspoon, so they can escape the many headhunters who are after him and take the tree boat all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
Jason: And freedom.
Quentin: When did the Gulf of Mexico become a symbol for freedom?
Jake: I don’t know. By that time the whole thing had gotten so silly I was pretty much checked out.
Quentin: Let’s start with what we liked, because obviously this isn’t the same thing as a Coen brothers movie, where critics are falling all over themselves to praise a piece of shit like No Country for Old Men.
Jason: Beautiful acting.
Jake: That’s where I think the 99% comes from. This is easily a career-best performance by McConaughey.
Quentin: If it doesn’t get him invited to the Oscars next year, nothing will.
Jason: And Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland are pitch perfect as Ellis and Neckbone.
|Lofland (l) and Sheridan (r)|
Quentin: Some of the best writing of the year, in terms of dialogue.
Jake: Strong direction by Jeff Nichols.
Quentin: Nice cinematography.
Jason: So what went wrong?
Jake: I see this all the time in movies. Great characters, great set up, great dialogue, and then…
Quentin: None of it adds up.
Jake: Right. These are characters in search of a plot.
Quentin: There is a fundamental problem with the script.
Jason: Which is?
Quentin: It doesn’t tell a story. The movie kind of moves aimlessly from one episode to another, but I couldn’t get it to make sense. I understand it’s supposed to be about the loss of innocence. I get that. Ellis’s parents are going through a divorce, and he’s trying to figure out what love is. He’s trying to wrap his 14-year-old brain around the concept that two people can just stop loving each other. So he wants to help Mud because he believes he’s aiding true love. Follow that with inevitable disappointment and the shattering of his child’s view of the world, and that’s the movie? Really? It’s either being too obvious or too subtle.
Jake: It’s a film that can’t make up its mind on so many levels.
Quentin: A big problem is the McConaughey character. Not the performance, which I loved, but the way the character is conceived and used in the narrative. I think we’re supposed to like him and root for him.
Jason: Of course we are. Because he’s charming and played by Matthew McConaughey.
Jake: And if I were Ellis and Neckbone, I would have found him intriguing as well.
Quentin: Please. Even Cade could have taken one look at him and figured out he’s a con man, as well as mentally unstable, delusional, homicidal, selfish, and completely out of touch with reality.
Jake: Let’s not forget he has absolutely no concern or regard for the danger he’s putting those two boys in.
Quentin: There’s something disturbing about a movie that romanticizes a man like Mud. And just because the script confronts its own reality doesn’t wipe it away.
Jason: And then that episode with the snakes.
Jake: That was the worst part for me. The movie totally goes off the rails in the third act.
Quentin: The big redeeming rescue felt like something out of a Disney movie. What a cheesy stunt to pull.
Jason: Especially for a movie that’s begging to be taken seriously. I didn't need him to be redeemed. I didn't want him to be redeemed.
Jake: And the final image couldn’t have been a bigger cliché if it was a bomb with a digital countdown.
Quentin: The script tells you what the last shot is going to be half way through the movie.
Jason: So we’re giving this one a thumbs down. Everyone involved can do better, including the critics.
Jake: And now I need to go home and pack for the weekend.
Quentin: Cade can drive you.
Jake: I heard he got his permit on Tuesday.
Jason: Travis has already taught him how to tear a car down to its bolts and put it back together again.
Quentin: The little dork is almost as tall as me.
Jake: What did you get him for his birthday?
Jake: What did you get him for his birthday?