Mud is getting good early word of mouth, but specifically for Matthew McConoughey. The actor came close to getting an Oscar nod for last year’s trio of great performances – stealing the show in Bernie, Magic Mike and Killer Joe – but this year he looks to be up for lead for Mud. There doesn’t seem to be any good reason why McConoughey has been continually overlooked for a single oscar nod. When he first burst onto the scene he was hailed as the new Paul Newman. Perhaps that early praise made it harder for him to overcome the hype. Maybe all of those romantic comedies made it harder for voters to take him seriously. That should not be a problem after last year’s work, and despite having a career for decades now his star is yet again on the rise with the upcoming films Wolf of Wall Street and Intersteller. And then there’s Dallas Buyers Club where McConaughey plays Ron Woodroof, a homophobic man who ends up dying of full blown AIDS. The actor’s startling weight loss will not be ignored.
Perhaps this is finally the moment when Oscar voters will catch up to what critics have known for some time about what McConoughey can do.
David Edelstein writes:
But the moral universe of Mud is settled. The parallels between young Ellis and young-at-heart Mud are tidy, and when the film introduces Mud’s ex-military father figure Blankenship (Sam Shepard) and the old man tells Mud he’ll have to dig himself out of his own mess this time, you kinda-sorta know Blankenship will come back into the picture the way similar patriarchs do in the bonehead action movies that Mud suddenly looks like. (A posse of bad guys comes to town led by Joe Don Baker, whose character Mud likens to “Old Scratch.”)
It’s hard to believe Nichols thinks he can get away with all this and harder still to believe he does. It’s the quality of the attention that he brings—his focus—that makes his work so engrossing. It helps that young Sheridan (he was in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life) has such a keen, wary, self-contained presence. He’s internal—until he isn’t and interrupts, throwing himself at the latest big bad wolf. At his side is young Lofland’s Neckbone, a hilarious foil, the same size and shape as Ellis but with one eye always on the main chance. All the actors are all there. I never thought I’d get such a kick out of watching Shepard be “iconic” again—but he now can hold his pose while letting all kinds of impudent subtext bubble up.
Does anyone still doubt McConaughey’s acting smarts? In Mud, he drawls and barks and gives his weird timing free rein, with the result that every line that emerges from his twisted, sunken face lands somewhere, sometime unexpected. Witherspoon’s role is smaller and less demanding, but what a pleasure it is to see her (like McConaughey) liberated from the minstrel show that is the studio rom-com—where actors make fortunes by caricaturing everything about themselves that made them stars.
Cinemablend’s Katie Rich:
The central force in the film is of course McConaughey, a benevolent but also terrifying father figure for both boys who, in some ways, is as naive as they are. Ellis is convinced to help Mud by his story of true love for Juniper, and the story’s many threads are linked by romance– or rather, what happens when a young boy’s notions of romance bump up against the real world (Sheridan, overshadowed a bit in Tree of Life, plays this and everything else spectacularly well). Mud gets his own share of that heartbreak, and with his natural charisma coiled and cautious within this character living on the fringe, McConaughey doesn’t exactly transform himself, but shows yet another side of an actor everyone wrote off as limited ages ago. There are lots of great reasons to see Mud, but McConaughey– as he so often is these days– might be the best one.