Everyone has their own theory about when exactly the McConaissance began. Clearly we’re still experiencing it, though a loss at the Emmys could possibly signal its decline. Still you can’t argue that Matthew McConaughey is in full swing.
But did the McConaissance begin with McConaughey selecting different roles and turning in performances with nuance or did it begin when the critics noticed that he’d begun doing that? If it’s the latter, then Mud is when it began.
Ellis’ parents are having problems and are on the verge of splitting up, which is something that Ellis doesn’t take that well. But rather than lashing out, he invests fully in Mud’s tragic tale of true love. Ellis wants to believe in happy endings and does believe that he help Mud find his.
Of course Mud doles out his story in drips and drabs, and the truth is much more complex than a simple love story. Soon Ellis and Neckbone are dragged into a story of revenge and violence.
Mud accomplished the extremely rare feat of being touching without being sappy. It could have become a sappy film full of speeches and tears. But it doesn’t. The dialogue never feels like it’s betraying the characters or their truths. And the moments never feel unnecessary, which is impressive considering that the film tops two hours. But it never feels long.
Mud also has some pretty impressive characters actors in the cast. On the villainous side there’s Joe Don Baker and Paul Sparks. Baker does the most with his limited screen time, infusing his character with depth. Sparks has the unenviable task being the heavy, but doesn’t go over the top with it.
As Mud, McConaughey plays his character as a man with a single mission. That focus prevents McConaughey from doing anything unnecessary or extra that might distract from the character. It really shows how talented he can be when he puts his mind to it.
Of course everyone already knows that now. Dallas Buyers Club showed his commitment to character, while True Detective proved he love a good role. But to me Mud was the beginning of the McConaissance.