Wednesday, November 27, 2013

(Produced) Screenplay Review: Mud

"Mud’s a born liar. That’s what makes him so likable. He makes people feel good about themselves."

Premise: Two boys befriend a homeless loner in hiding, who's trying to reunite with his girlfriend.

Written by: Jeff Nichols

Technical: 132 pages. Shooting script.

The Mississippi River (at Neely's Landing)

One day Ellis and Neckbone, both fourteen years old, are boating along the Mississippi river. They end up on the shore of a small island, and eventually find a 26 foot boat in a tree. They go inside it and discover that someone has been living there. They then meet that man, who calls himself Mud. The boys bring him back some food (as requested) and Mud tells them that he's waiting for his girlfriend, Juniper. He describes her to the boys, mentioning a nightingale tattoo on her hand.

One day at the store in town, Ellis spots Mud's girlfriend. Later, Ellis and his mother are stopped on a highway roadblock. And the state troopers are handing out pictures with Mud's photograph, looking for him. Ellis and Neckbone confront Mud, and he tells them that he killed a man that was abusive to Juniper.

Mud wants to get the boat stuck in the tree back into the water. He thinks it's his best chance of escaping, since he can't go by land, because everyone is looking for him. Ellis and Neck agree to help him get the boat down, in exchange for Mud's pistol.

But complications arise. The boys find Juniper, to give her a note from Mud, and walk in on a man beating her. Ellis tries to intervene, and gets hurt. Mud explains that the man's name is Carver, and he's the brother of the man Mud killed. Mud says that if Carver is nearby, then more men will be coming. Bounty hunters.

"Mud" is one of the worst screenplays I have ever read. It takes a person of a special calibre to write something this bad. It's absolutely soulless, and the very definition of artificial. "Mud" does not contain one moderately interesting or real character, nor an ounce of emotion. I despised it on every level.

Don't get me wrong: reading "Mud", I could very much see it being a movie. I could see the script being filmed and making money and attracting star talent. I could see it getting positive reviews. (The vast majority of reviews nowadays are so zanily inane and make so little sense, could one call them reviews? No, most of the dribble written has everything to do with ego-stroking, people-pleasing, job-advancing, and money-making, and nothing to do with cinema. They are not unbiased, brainwash-free opinions. Or if some are, than they are from individuals who should not be informing the public. The film "Mud" holds a 98% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Oh, and go look who's starring in it.)

The only genuine moment in the screenplay is the scene near the end, when Ellis confronts May Pearl, as well as the scene that immediately follows it. After this "Mud" switches gears, speeding into the most mindless, illogical part of the entire screenplay. The rest of the script is the usual unadulterated Hollywood dribble. The sappy, fake, contrived ending reads like it was written by the screenwriter's L.A. secretary. I lost count of the number of nonsensical cliches, and there are also about two dozen "payoffs" from earlier "set-ups". And of course the whole thing ends with shotgun-wielding hitmen closing in on Eliss' now-happy household (where a concerned Mud is visiting the bedridden Eliss). Mud joins the shootout, kills the bad guy, and fakes his own death. It all felt like "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" meets "Kindergarten Cop". I am still asking myself: did the ending actually happen? Forget jumping the shark; the ending of "Mud" jumps across a line of sharks, with rocket jet packs attached to the water skis.

Save yourself the time and don't read this script; nothing can be gained from it. "Mud" is a ludicrous, imbecilic, degenerate disgrace. A writer can't get much lower than "Mud", and damned if they try.

About: "Mud" was released in 2012, directed by Jeff Nichols, and featuring Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Sam Shepard, and Reese Witherspoon.

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