Mud

The first trailer I saw for Mud had an almost sinister quality to it. A dirty Matthew McConaughey mysteriously shows up on an island where two young boys have discovered a boat in a tree. McConaughey tells him his name is Mud and he has crosses in the heels of his boots to protect him from evil spirits. He seems crazy, unhinged perhaps so naturally I was ready to run to the theater when it arrived in Indy.

The performances were good, the setting was perfect, and the premise had a chance…but for over 2 hours I sat in my seat desperately trying to engage in this story. In the beginning I thought it was mostly about the one young boy, Ellis, who is helping Mud while his parents’ marriage is falling apart, but then I thought maybe it was about Mud’s quest to be with Juniper (Reese Witherspoon’s under utilized character). Instead we see Juniper very little and she seems emotionless and cold. Only once do we get a glimpse of how much pain she is feeling over the seemingly forbidden love she shares with Mud, but you get the sense that she will be back in the bar flirting with another average Joe in no time. I found myself wishing the big twist was the Juniper had no idea who Mud was. The imminent divorce of Ellis’ parents is dropped in the third act but that is because a shootout erupts out of no where with a group of bounty hunters who will apparently stop at nothing, even endangering the life of an innocent family, to make sure that Mud is dead.

Sam Shepard portrays Ellis’ aloof neighbor Tom, who at one point tells Ellis and his friend NeckBone (yes, NeckBone) that they need to stay away from Mud. As everyone knows telling two 14 year old boys NOT to do something is going to work. The story followed a pattern that became increasingly predictable. At one point the audience gasped but I thought “really?!, you guys didn’t see that coming from a mile?.” It was not predictable in the same way that a superhero movie is predictable. I get that when I go see Iron Man 3 later this week I am not going to be surprised that the hero saves the day again, but at least create some tension or get me to move to the edge of my seat. Did I mention that Michael Shannon is in this movie too? The thrown in storyline of young unrequited love? Seriously so much was shoved into this movie that it felt more like a pilot episode of a TV show and not a stand alone movie. You may love it, but I felt like it didn’t do much with the story it set up and what was served up was a boring, predictable anti-hero fairytale.

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