Matthew McConaughey, son of a gas station owner, first captured and glued my attention in the 1996 “A Time to Kill”; he has had some bad films (“Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”) but throughout his career, the forty-four- year old actor has been incredibly perspicacious in role selection. As “Mud” he excels, as a good- hearted miscreant who manipulates two fourteen –year -old boys into helping him escape an island where his “ark” rests precariously in a tree; a magnificent, but unforgiving, toxic landscape is the venue for memorable “Mud”.
Remarkable performances imbue writer/director Jeff Nichols’s “Mud” stunning credibility, riveting emotional trauma, substantive real-life scenarios.
Two boys, one a romantic, idealist, the other a pragmatic realist. Tye Sheridan as “Ellis” is struggling with the break- up of his parents marriage (wonderful miner roles by Sarah Paulson, Ray McKinnon), his unrequited love for an older teenage girl and his misguided faith in Mud’s problematic attachment to “Juniper” (Reese Witherspoon gives an adequate salty, slutty depiction, of woman incapable of making a viable romantic connection); Sheridan’s performance matches McConaughey’s in depth and integrity; lending “Mud” a unique screen partnership. Equally powerful, is Jacob Lofland’s interpretation of “Neckbone” a tough kid, with a viper’s tongue, and the astute cunning of an adult.
At times the plot becomes “muddy”; “Tom” (Sam Shepard) is inscrutable regarding his relationship to Mud; warring factions between legitimate law enforcement and vigilante hunters, enigmatic; but not enough to rob the movie of its galvanizing potency as a story of lacerating honesty, beautifully defined by actors, seasoned in eminence, gifting exemplary, unadulterated entertainment.
THREE & 1/2 STARS!!!