The Mudge Boy
|The Mudge Boy|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Burke|
|Produced by||Elizabeth W. Alexander|
|Screenplay by||Michael Burke|
|Based on||Fishbelly White|
by Michael Burke
|Music by||Marcelo Zarvos|
|Edited by||Affonso Gonçalves|
|Distributed by||Showtime Networks|
The Mudge Boy is a 2003 American drama film directed by Michael Burke, based on Burke's 1998 short film Fishbelly White which was featured in the compilation Boys Life 5. It stars Emile Hirsch, Tom Guiry, and Richard Jenkins. It was produced by Elizabeth W. Alexander and distributed by Showtime after its release at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival.
In the past, the mother of Duncan Mudge dies from a heart attack while riding her bike. In the current day, Duncan works with his grieving father Edgar on their poultry farm, where Duncan has bonded with most of the chickens. His relationship with his father is split due to his father's depression, and intolerance towards Duncan exploring his sexual orientation. While riding his bike with a chicken his mother grew fond of on the rural path, he stops to pet a cow belonging to Perry Foley whom he engages in a conversation with before leaving.
The next day, at the local church, Duncan offers to find Perry and interrupts him in the bathroom with a girl named Tonya. The friends Perry hangs out with, who are slackers, later arrive at a convenience store when Duncan is refilling his tires. Tonya is with the group and comforts Duncan over his mother, she invites him on a joyride. Meanwhile, his father Edgar in a bitter rage stores his wife's belongings. When Perry is insulted by a girl named April, he takes Duncan's hat which belonging to his mother and throws it on the road. Perry and Duncan get off the truck, though he is not able to find the hat. In Duncan's barn, Perry pridefully tells of his sexual encounter before his father yells for him. Duncan's father tells him before bed that he's now suitable for more adult responsibilities around the farm, and gives him a lamp also belonging to his mother.
Once Duncan's work is done for the afternoon, his father dismisses him. He visits Perry, who has a cut on his lip from his abusive father. Perry takes him swimming in a lake below a support bridge he comes to relax in. Duncan touches Perry's arm when he is distracted by a train above them, to which he first reacts with resentment, but then eases up. Back at the farm, Perry asks about Duncan's parents, and talks about his lack of a role model growing up. Duncan then shows Perry a way his mother taught him to soothe a chicken by putting its head into his mouth. Perry shames him for it, and goes home. After moving hay bales, Duncan goes with Perry's friends to an outdoor party. Perry is later watched by Duncan while receiving fellatio from April. After the party, they examine his mother's belongings in the barn. Perry convinces him to put on his mother's wedding dress as a joke, which he does reluctantly. He then tells Duncan to fellate him, before he anally penetrates him. Duncan's father catches him in the dress with Perry afterwards, and is disgusted.
In the morning, Duncan stops digging a plot and is reprimanded by his father for his behavior. His father resorts to burning his wife's things. At night, Duncan meets Perry in a tractor where Perry says they shouldn't be hanging out anymore. Duncan asks if he thought about kissing him, before Perry angrily does so. Duncan kisses him again, but more affectionately. Perry calls him a "faggot" and tells him to stay away. Perry's father confronts him when he comes home late, and beats him. At the convenience store, Perry and his friends steal Duncan's chicken and taunt him with it. Perry, who is seen with bruises, gives it back and tells him to put the chicken's head in his mouth. He does this, and while being insulted and tormented, he bites off the chicken's head. His father sees him coming home with the dead chicken, to which he responds by hugging him as Duncan breaks down in tears.
- Emile Hirsch as Duncan Mudge
- Tom Guiry as Perry Foley
- Richard Jenkins as Edgar Mudge
- Pablo Schreiber as Brent
- Zachary Knighton as Travis
- Ryan Donowho as Scotty
- Meredith Handerhan as Tonya
- Beckie King as April
On January 17, 2003, The Mudge Boy premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival and in 2003 and 2004 it made the rounds at several gay and lesbian and independent film festivals around the United States. The region 1 DVD was released on May 9, 2006.
The film received generally positive reviews from critics; review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 77% out of 26 professional critics gave the film a positive review. Roger Ebert from the Chicago Sun-Times called it "odd and intense, very well acted, and impossible to dismiss." Lisa Rose from The Star-Ledger said about it that "It's not an easy film to watch, but it is a memorable one."