Mud (2012 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jeff Nichols|
|Produced by||Lisa Maria Falcone
|Written by||Jeff Nichols|
|Music by||David Wingo|
|Editing by||Julie Monroe|
Brace Cove Productions
|Running time||130 minutes|
Mud is a 2012 American coming-of-age drama film written and directed by Jeff Nichols. The film stars Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Sam Shepard, and Reese Witherspoon. The film competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. It was shown at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2013. The film opened on April 26, 2013 with a limited release in select theaters, before having a wider release on May 10, 2013.
Two teenage boys in De Witt, Arkansas, Ellis and Neckbone, travel to a small island in the Mississippi River where Neckbone found a boat stuck high in a tree, likely from a flood. They intend to make it their own but soon realize someone is living in it and meet Mud – a strange man who claims to have grown up in the town. While calmly fishing he tells the boys he needs food. He promises to give the boys his boat if they help him during the short time he plans to stay on the island. The boys leave unsure of what to think about Mud.
Ellis and his mother are stopped at a police roadblock and learn that Mud is actually a fugitive. Ellis lies to police about having seen the man in the mug shot and is told nothing about his crime. When the boys return to give Mud food, they press him for an answer about why he is hiding out. He says he is waiting to reunite with his old girlfriend, Juniper, whom he describes as beautiful with a tattoo on her hand. He goes on to explain that he killed a man who had impregnated Juniper and pushed her down a flight of stairs, causing her to lose the child. The boys decide to help Mud free and repair the boat.
Later, Neckbone and Ellis spot Juniper in town. They tell Mud who gives them a note to give to her. When they find her motel room, they interrupt another man who is abusing her. Ellis charges the man and shoves him off Juniper, but is quickly overpowered. When Mud asks about Ellis' black eye, they tell him about the man and describe him. Mud realizes that the vengeful family of the man he killed has come to find him.
We later see Mud's fears confirmed during a meeting of King Carver, the father, his surviving son and a handful of bounty hunters. They talk of staking out Juniper's motel and having paid off the local and state police.
Meanwhile, Ellis is dealing with personal troubles. His parents are heading for divorce, which threatens their old river houseboat, owned by his mother. Once no longer used as a residence by the owner, the boats are being taken off the river, due to recently passed laws.
Ellis falls for an older high school girl named May Pearl and thinks he's in love. Mud looks to Tom Blankenship, an older father figure from his childhood, for help. Tom lives across the river from Ellis, so he is easy to find. Tom is disturbed that Mud is in trouble again over Juniper and refuses to help.
Stealing machine parts and other supplies from junkyards, the boys help Mud repair the boat and fix a salvaged engine. They also try to reunite Juniper with Mud but she decides not to leave. Ellis also suffers heartbreak when May Pearl rebuffs him in front of her friends.
Upon returning to the island, Ellis angrily calls Mud a liar and a fake, accusing him of using the boys to do what he was afraid to do, and turning them into thieves. Running away, Ellis falls into a creek with water moccasins and is bitten. Mud dives into the ditch knowing that if he is bitten he will die (he has already been bitten and given the antidote when he was Ellis's age, and the antidote cannot be used a second time). Mud races to get an unconscious Ellis to the mainland and takes him to the hospital. Recognizing the wanted man, one of the hospital employees calls police who, in turn, tip off King.
Mud manages to get back to the island and he and Neckbone get the repaired boat into the water. Mud wants to say good-bye to Ellis so Neckbone takes him to Ellis’ houseboat where he is recovering. While Mud is in Ellis' room, Carver and his posse arrive and start shooting. Tom uses his old sniper rifle to pick off several attackers from across the river. Mud saves Ellis and tries to get away but is shot as he dives into the river. After all the posse members are dead, including the younger Carver, the police arrive. One trooper calls King and delivers the message that his other son is dead.
Ellis’ parents separate, he and his mother move to an apartment in town and their houseboat is taken off the river. Ellis sees attractive older teenage girls there renewing Ellis' sense of hope. He is uncertain of Mud's fate but believes again he had some redeeming value protecting Juniper. Mud is revealed to be alive and recovering on the repaired boat with Tom.
- Matthew McConaughey as Mud
- Reese Witherspoon as Juniper
- Tye Sheridan as Ellis
- Jacob Lofland as Neckbone
- Sam Shepard as Tom Blankenship
- Ray McKinnon as Senior
- Sarah Paulson as Mary Lee
- Michael Shannon as Galen
- Joe Don Baker as King
- Sadie Antonio as Maybeline Patterson
- Paul Sparks as Carver
- Stuart Greer as Miller
- Bonnie Sturdivant as May Pearl
- John Ward Jr. as Galen's Helper
- Kristy Barrington as Princess
- Johnny Cheek as Kyle
- Kenneth Hill as Nelson
- Michael Abbott, Jr. as James
Jeff Nichols wrote and directed Mud, which was fully financed by Everest Entertainment and produced by Everest and FilmNation Entertainment. Nichols came up with the concept for the film in the 1990s. He had always had McConaughey in mind after seeing him in Lone Star (1996). While still a student, Nichols began developing the story, inspired by Mark Twain's works, including the 1876 novel Tom Sawyer. He also sought to reflect the theme of love: "I wanted to capture a point in my life in High School when I had crushes on girls and it totally broke my heart and it was devastating. I wanted to try and bottle that excitement and that pain and that intensity of being in love and being a teenager."
Nichols said he had long envisioned the role of Mud for Matthew McConaughey. In May 2011, Chris Pine was in talks for the lead role. McConaughey was cast as Mud the following August and was joined by Reese Witherspoon. Witherspoon was at the same agency as Nichols, so he was able to approach her for the role of Juniper.
For the local boys of a small Delta town, Nichols cast boys who could already pilot boats and ride dirt bikes, instead of ones who would have to be taught on set. For the teenage role of Neckbone, over 2,000 boys auditioned, and 15-year-old Jacob Lofland from Yell County, Arkansas, was cast.
Nichols started shooting Mud in his home state of Arkansas on September 26, 2011. Filming took eight weeks and concluded on November 19. He filmed in Southeast Arkansas; locations included Dumas, De Witt, Lake Village, Crocketts Bluff, and Stuttgart. The island in the film was located outside the city of Eudora. The cast and crew numbered over 100 people, around half of whom were Arkansas residents. Over 400 locals were also involved as extras. According to the state government's Economic Development Commission, "Mud is the largest production ever to be filmed in the state." Nichols said about filming in parts of Southeast Arkansas, "These places and people have such a particular accent and culture, and they're quickly getting homogenized. I wanted to capture a snapshot of a place that probably won't be there forever."
Mud's cinematographer Adam Stone used a Steadicam for filming. Stone, who was also cinematographer for Nichols's previous films Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter, said, "If you look at 'Shotgun Stories,' the camera is fairly moored. With 'Take Shelter,' we had a lot more dolly work. In 'Mud,' the camera never really sits still. The locations were either super-remote or really small and cramped, so the Steadicam was the only thing that could get in there." The film was shot on Kodak VISION3 35 mm film stocks in the anamorphic format with Panavision G-Series lenses.
Mud premiered on May 26, 2012 at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, where it had a competition slot for the festival's prizes including the Palme d'Or. Reuters reported that the film "[earned] warm applause at a press screening". Variety's film critics Justin Chang and Peter Debruge considered Mud one of their favorites of the film festival. Debruge said the film was reminiscent of the novel Huckleberry Finn: "It so elegantly addresses what masculinity and family really mean in the heartland." He said the Mississippi River in Mud was "a mythic backdrop... in which old values struggle against stronger modern forces in the world".
After its Cannes premiere, no distributor immediately purchased rights to release the film in the United States. By August 2012, Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions acquired rights to distribute Mud in the United States. In January 2013, Mud screened at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, and the Austin American-Statesman reported, "His modern take on Mark Twain played to an enthusiastic sold-out crowd of more than 500 people."
Mud received universal acclaim. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a score of 98%, based on reviews from 150 critics, with the site's consensus: "Bolstered by a strong performance from Matthew McConaughey in the title role, Mud offers an engaging Southern drama that manages to stay sweet and heartwarming without being sappy." Metacritic gave the film a normalized average score of 76, based on 35 reviews.
- "MUD (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. 2013-02-11. Retrieved 2013-06-16.
- "In Motion With Arkansas Moviemaker Jeff Nichols". talkbusiness.net. July 15, 2012. Retrieved April 21, 2013.
- "Mud Box office gross". www.boxoffice.com. Retrieved September 17, 2013.
- "2012 Official Selection". Cannes. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
- "Cannes Film Festival 2012 line-up announced". Timeout. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
- Fox, Jesse David (2013-01-16). "Mud Trailer: Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon Have a Southern-Accent-Off". Vulture. Retrieved 2013-01-16.
- Tapley, Kristopher (2013-01-16). "'Mud' trailer with Matthew McConaughey reignites the fuse in advance of Sundance bow". Hitflix. Retrieved 2013-01-16.
- McNary, Dave (August 16, 2012). "Lionsgate, Roadside warm 'Mud' for U.S.". Variety.
- Jeff Labrecque (21, Jan, 2013). "Sundance 2013: The Rebirth of Matthew McConaughey". Entertainment Weekly.
- Leffler, Rebecca (May 26, 2012). "Cannes 2012: Jeff Nichols' 'Mud' Slides Into Competition with Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon". The Hollywood Reporter.
- Zeitchik, Steven (May 15, 2011). "Cannes 2011: Cannes director and 'Memento' producer will collaborate on new film, possibly with Chris Pine". Los Angeles Times.
- Abrams, Rachel; Sneider, Jeff (August 8, 2011). "Thesps wrestle in 'Mud'". Variety.
- Zeitchik, Steven (May 26, 2012). "Cannes 2012: Jeff Nichols cleans up with 'Mud'". Los Angeles Times.
- Staff (December 12, 2011). "Lensing completed on Jeff Nichols’ Mud". arkansasedc.com (Arkansas Economic Development Commission). Retrieved February 6, 2013.
- Bell, Christopher (September 13, 2011). "'Take Shelter' Director Jeff Nichols Talks 'Mud,' Hopes To Have Michael Shannon In Supporting Role". The Playlist (indieWire). Retrieved February 6, 2013.
- Millar, Lindsay (December 14, 2011). "Nichols talks 'Mud,' more". Arkansas Times. Retrieved February 6, 2013.
- Debruge, Peter (February 14, 2012). "10 Cinematographers to Watch: Adam Stone". Variety.
- "Getting Dirty: Mud embraces authenticity of locations". Kodak InCamera Magazine. November 9, 2012. Retrieved April 30, 2013.
- Collett-White, Mike (May 26, 2012). "Cannes gets happy ending with river film 'Mud'". Reuters.
- Chang, Justin; Debruge, Peter (May 29, 2012). "Cannes conclusions; Variety crix debate whether U.S. pics lived up to potential and what titles stood out at fest". Variety.
- Peter Bradshaw (26 May 2012). "Cannes 2012: Mud – review". The Guardian.
- Odam, Matthew (January 24, 2013). "At Sundance: 'Mud' director no longer mired in acquisition angst". Austin American-Statesman.
- Mud at Rotten Tomatoes Retrieved June 16, 2013
- Mud at Metacritic Retrieved June 16, 2013