For all the good I see in Jeff Nichols’s work, I can’t shake the fact that he doesn’t have a whole lot to say. Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter were both expertly made and benefitted from Michael Shannon, who’s in Mud as well, in the kind of role Harvey Keitel got relegated to when Scorsese discovered Robert DeNiro (which is not to compare Scorsese and Nichols).
Perhaps it’s too much to expect that when a good story is told well, and the flyover states are represented as Nichols has, that something more than that is needed to really set a film apart. He gets a great performance from Matthew McConaughey, for example–as a wanted fugitive who lives in a boat in a tree (it’s not ridiculous in the film)–by surrounding him with southern myth and grotesques (old-testament-religioous toughs, mysterious loners, trashy-hot beauties) rather than ask McConaughey to do something he can’t (play something other than Matthew McConaughey).
Fun, smaller performances from Reese Witherspoon, Sam Shepard (wish he took a whack at the script), and Joe Don Baker. Great supporting performances from Ray McKinnon and Sarah Paulson, and both little boys are excellent (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland).
It’s basically a coming-of-age-on-the-Mississippi story. The complications are simple, the psychology is careworn and predictable. Compare the results to the work of David Gordon Green’s earlier work, specifically Undertow, to see what the film could have looked like.
Tatiana Maslany plays seven different roles (clones) in the BBC series. She’s terrific–you can tell who’s who from her walk–and so’s the show.
So, clones. Not a huge fan. I guess I understand the uncanny pull of seeing your twin and the inherent complications about identity, etc. that would provide, but those are not necessarily complications I find all that interesting. I really start to claw the walls when the scientific morality is debated–responsibility towards the clone created, what makes a human, what is consciousness.
Holy shit, get a room.
The good news, for me, is that this show wears the philosophical ramifications of playing God lightly, and functions mostly as a kickass action series, the core mythology functioning mostly as a way of exploring the characters and driving the plot forward.
I don’t know why I wanted more challenge from Mud and am happy with less from Orphan Black. Oh well.
Naked and Afraid (watching muddy, bare asses with my children is the most fun I’ve had this summer)
Breaking Bad starts in eight days.