Boy Heaven

When I was little, I loved adventure stories.  My favorite author was Jules Verne.  I still have fond memories of repeated readings of The Mysterious Island, a classic desert island yarn.  If you like adventure stories, Mud will appeal.

The story follows two teenaged boys, Ellis and Neckbone, both of whom live in riverside rural poverty and have dodgy family situations.  They discover a fugitive named Mud (Matthew McConaughey), living on an uninhabited island in the middle of the Mississippi.  Mud is on the lam, having committed a crime to protect the love of his life, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon).  Adventures ensue.

In my Bernie review, ( I mentioned how glad I am to see Matthew McConaughey take on interesting roles which test his range.  His performance as Mud is outstanding.  Mud is charismatic, but crazy, with a rats nest of hair and terrible teeth.   Mud is likeable, yet deeply flawed, and as the narrative arc of the film unfolds the boys realize this.  The other actors are strong as well, particularly the boys.  In the tradition of many “girlfriend” roles (see the Bechdel test, Reese Witherspoon’s part is underwritten and as a result the scenes featuring Juniper are weak.

Also, Mud drags a bit.  As my friend Barbara said, we could have done with a few less scenes of the boys boating up and down the river.  Some of the story lines are unresolved, or edited in a confusing way that leaves the viewer a little, well muddled.   But these are small points.  It is always a pleasure to see a movie which defies easy categorization and is made free from the constraints of the big studios.  Mud is worth seeing for McConaughey alone. But also for an unusual and artfully constructed Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn reboot.

Rating:  *** (out of ****)


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