October 1, 2022

Gabbing Geek

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Watson Reviews Mudbound (Spoiler Free)

It is EXACTLY the movie Ryan Garcia thought it would be.  Is that a good thing or a bad thing or somewhere in between?  Read on to find out!

I guess Mudbound falls in the “somewhere in between” category.  I enjoyed parts of the film but it felt like an HBO original movie that is simply imitating cliche Oscar Bait.  I do not come to this conclusion from a bias against Netflix, who bought the film and launched it on their streaming service after a limited engagement in Los Angeles to earn Oscar eligibility.  Instead, I find the film lacking a truly cinematic essence and would have felt the same whether I saw it on IMAX or sitting on my couch.

Not to say it was a bad movie or I didn’t enjoy the film, which follows two families, one black and one white, in rural Mississippi in the post-World War 2 era. Amid a shameful time in our nation’s history, a black sergeant faces the frustration of having less liberty in the home he fought to defend than he had in Europe.  Mudbound reminds us of the dangers of organized bigotry, which sadly is still timely.

Mudbound would have been a really excellent Made For TV film that would have been the favorite to win an Emmy, but judging this against the other Oscar contenders out there, it suffers by comparisons.  The film is smart and well acted, but in no way memorable

The use of multiple narrators (just about everyone got first person liberties) allows director Dee Rees to spotlight a strong cast and a well-crafted script.  Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan (An Education), Garrett Hedlund (Tron), Jason Clarke (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton), singer Mary J. Blige, and Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad) all perform well, but I feel like we’ve seen these characters before in better films.

The relationship between Hedlund and Mitchell’s war veterans is charming but it felt like we skipped a lot of footage to show it building despite societal norms.  Mitchell was strong, but Hedlund continues his streak of passable performances and underwhelms at times.

The standout for me was Rob Morgan (Turk from the Netflix MCU series) as Hap Jackson, the patriarch of the family renting land and trying to make it.   His pride and strength as he faces a harsh reality of segregationist Mississippi is worthy of consideration come Oscar season.  In a film with some fairly renowned performers, it is a pleasant surprise to see a character actor steal the show. None of the more marquee names really stood out from the pack.

The film was good but, like my reviews, meandered a bit.  It was more of a collection of really meaningful scenes that captured the lives of some interesting characters in an interesting setting, but didn’t quite catch wind and create a compelling narrative.

I hate to be the reviewer who says what a movie SHOULD have been, but will anyway.  Mudbound would have made an excellent two or three season Netflix original series instead of a movie and that was very apparent the whole time.

Overall, I give Mudbound 7 Ryan Was Right On This Ones out of 10.

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