Tag Archives: Ray McKinnon

Hick (2011)


Contrary to the brutally negative reception for this film, I found “Hick” to be a solid film with a powerful theme and an engrossing main character. I actually thought it was better than the director’s earlier effort, “Lymelife” (2008.) Rory Culkin gave it his best shot, but the Suburban family dysfunction motif is so ‘done,’ and y’know, Emma Roberts plays the same damned character in every freaking movie she’s in.

The often-overlooked Culkin brother is in this too in a small part, but Chloe Grace Moretz runs the show as Luli, a sexually provocative yet heartbreakingly vulnerable 13-year-old and the product of drunk loser parents (Anson Mount and Juliette Lewis) living in small town, Nebraska. Disenchanted with her going-nowhere life, Luli hitches a ride from a limping young man (Eddie Redmayne,) a decision which turns out to be the most dire of her life.

Chloe Grace Moretz is a good little actress, although she still has a lot of room to improve, and seeing her flounce around in her underwear and act sexually precocious might bother a lot of people. But it’s important to remember that Moretz is not a little girl anymore, and is gradually working her way into more mature roles (maybe a little faster than we would like.)

Pubescent Moretz provokes controversy.

Luli is a dynamic character. Early on, as she points her revolver in the mirror and quotes lines from famous films, we see a girl who has been hurt to many times, and needs a lifeline of any kind to stay afloat. Later, when she asks her mother’s boyfriend if she’s pretty, our heart aches for her- we want to be there for this lonely, desperate girl, yet can only watch her fumble and fight with the challenges of an unusual adolescence through the screen.

Unfortunately, the other characters are singularly nasty and unlikable, almost unbearably at times. Most of them seem to exist primarily to abuse, let down, and exploit Luli, to the exclusion of anything else. Redmayne gives a good performance as Eddie, the boy who picks Luli up, but by the end it is impossible to feel any sympathy for him.

Just because we are traveling from one little hick town to another, does that mean the men can’t show a little chivalry towards a struggling teenage girl? It is disturbing, but also ludicrous, how each odd character Luli meets seems to be indescribably broken and mean spirited. That said, I never got bored during this movie, and was fascinated by Moretz’s little traveler.

I’ve liked Moretz since “Kick-Ass,” and she shows maturity and screen presence as the lead character. Watch this for her and Redmayne, if for no one else. While Redmayne is appropriately vile, the film finds an unlikely heroine in Luli, sometimes sour, sometimes sweet, but always compelling.

Mud (2012)

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“Mud” is director Jeff Nichol’s third feature following the intriguing ‘crazy… or not?’ rural thriller “Take Shelter.” As impressive as “Take Shelter” (and Michael Shannon) were, I think “Mud” trumps it, delivering an arresting and fascinating plot that is, above all, I think, a coming-of-age story. Young Ellis (Tye Sheridan) lives alongside the Mississippi River in a boat with his quarreling parents (Ray McKinnon and Sarah Paulson.) The boat is in danger of being taken down for complicated legal reasons, and Ellis must contend with both the possibility of losing the only home he has ever known and the disintegration of his parents’ marriage.

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Ellis’ best pal is Neckbone (Jacob Lofland,) and the two go on adventures that us overprotected Suburban kids can only dream of. They take a boat down the river and to a island, where a storm has tossed a boat in a tree. “This is our boat,’ they declare, as they climb the tree and into their new abode. Turns out the tree and boat are already occupied- by a man called Mud (Matthew McConaughey,) an eccentric loner on the run from the law. Mud needs food- and the more idealistic Ellis complies, while Neckbone keeps his distance.

Ellis & Neckbone

Mud professes his love for Juniper (Reese Witherspoon) to the boys, and Ellis is sucked in by his tale of chivalry and true love, and decides to help him. But Ellis soon realizes that relationships are a lot more complicated than he had first assumed, and this is mirrored by his attempts to engage the interest of pretty yet fickle teen May Pearl (Bonnie Sturdivant.) Growing up is hard. But when you’re fighting for your life (as Ellis soon is when men come looking for Mud,) there isn’t a lot of room for mistakes.boat

Yes, McConaughey is great here, but I think the main kudos belongs to Tye Sheridan as Ellis. Together Sheridan, and the director, propel this film past common coming-of-age territory.  One asset is the unique setting of the film. I’ve been on these roads, I’ve seen these landmarks. Okay, not literally, but I live in a similar area, a place that, similarly, would not generally be portrayed in the movies. A hundred times I’ve gotten a snack or a soda from a gas station identical to the one’s in this town.

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“Mud” has a feeling of gritty realism without ugly attempts to make Southerners into nasty toothless pieces of human waste. The characters are three-dimensional and sympathetically wrought; there’s a certain complexity that fits with the boy, Ellis’, increasing awareness of the adult world.  I simultaneously felt jealous for Ellis’ childhood of freedom and closeness with a best friend and worried for him as he navigates difficult social mores, hits emotional milestones and is actually physically endangered at times. Life’s not easy when you’re a plucky teen who’s better at getting into fistfights than getting out of them.

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The whole cast is great here, and Michael Shannon, who was brilliant in “Take Shelter,” features again as Neckbone’s Uncle Galen, a shameless bad influence.  We don’t live as far down South as Ellis and his family and friends so I missed the chance to be named ‘Neckbone’ or ‘Mud.’  What a pity.

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I can’t help being reminded of the 1999 English film “A Room For Romeo Brass,” a movie about two undersupervised kids who fall in with a shady man with a dynamic personality. Both start similarly but end quite differently, as “…Romeo Brass”‘s eccentric adult companion turns out to be all kinds of crazy. I highly recommend both as looks at a most unusual male adolescence.

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“Mud” is a compelling watch that becomes a mite implausible in the end stand-off. This didn’t bother me particularly because it is, after all, a movie.  Matthew  McConaughey uglifies for this role (what is  with that buck-toothed thing he does throughout?) and proves, once again, he is not just a pretty face. Tye Sheridan is thoroughly captivating in the lead role. I hope to see more of him shortly. A good way to spend 2+ hours.

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