With just three feature films to his name, writer and director Jeff Nichols has already set himself a high standard. Both of his previous works, Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter, are strong dramas with compelling characters, dark intrigue and impressive economy of style. With Mud, Nichols has progressed from making a good film to making a great film.
Two CIA agents, FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy), who are both dashingly handsome and deadly in a fight, are best friends and partners who would never ever let anything come between them. Then something comes between them: a woman, of course. Tuck meets Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) through an online dating site after discovering his ex-wife has begun dating. Tuck and Lauren hit it off immediately; she’s captivated by his British accent and trapeze skills, he’s smitten by her looks and sense of humor.
The circus is a complicated enterprise, and its symbolic value in storytelling has many faces. It may tell of freedom and the charm of living as a nomad and artist. It may speak to the weariness of the road, and the ability of a lifestyle to trap those who do not know how to break free. It may celebrate the solidarity of those cast out from society. Or in the end, it may simply deal with the hideous antics of clowns. In any form, the circus plays upon the most fundamental feelings of wonder and fear, and makes children of us all once again.
Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd do not always make great movies, but when given the chance they rise to it. Both are as funny and enjoyable as they’ve ever been. George and Lisa would make a great couple, if only they would wake up and go for it!