Thursday, October 19, 2017

Mudbound (2017) NYFF 2017

Director Dee Rees and the cast of MUDBOUND at the New York Film Festival
Word out of Sundance this year was that MUDBOUND was the early front runner for the Oscar. It was a deeply moving film that explored the racial divide in the most moving ways. Heading into the screening at the New York FIlm festival I was braced for the worst. Expectations were so high it couldn't live up to them.... and while I'm not sure it's an Oscar contender, it is a solid melodrama that does some surprising things.

Based on Hillary jordan's novel, MUDBOUND follows the fortunes of two families living on a bare surviving cotton farm in Mississippi. When family members return changed from the Second World War the old ways of the world collide with new ideas brought on by the experience of battle.

While an old fashioned melodrama at it's heart, MUDBOUND has a great deal more on it's mind. A tightly plotted the film it is not content with easy answers. The film wants us to think about what we are seeing  so it has set up characters and subplots in such a way  that we are forced to think about what we are seeing. For example a good marriage is twined with a bad one (The McAllan's is failing) while the Jackson's is solid) and we get different shades of racism to ponder (The Grandfather is an outright racist, his married son is casually so, his other son was but has changed while wife seems to be free of hatred). Pretty much everyone is given an interior monologue or two which deepens our understanding of our characters and the themes.

One has to applaud director Dee Rees for making a film that improves the more you think of it. On the face of it and on the first time through the film plays like an old school melodrama, however after the film sits with you (and perhaps after some long discussions)  you realize that there is more to the film than just a simple drama.

That reason the film overcomes it's melodramatic plotting is the amazing cast. They are wonderful from top to bottom with everyone, including Mary J Blige disappearing completely into their roles. If I must single anyone out it would be Rob Morgan as Hap Jackson. This is a heartfelt performance that not only should  make him a superstar but may even get him Oscar gold.

I have to say that if MUDBOUND plays near you go see it on a big screen before you watch it on Netflix. The cinematography is truly amazing and seeing it on the small screen it will be lost. trust me, I had to step out of the film for a moment and when I returned I found I was stopped dead in my tracks as a the images overwhelmed me.

I like the film a great deal, and I like it more because it doesn't do what we expect. I like that while there are tragic turns the film ends on a hopeful note.  I love that director Rees trusted her audience to handle all of the weighty things she was throwing at us. I also loved that she messed with me as a viewer and gave me several "ah ha" moments.

MUDBOUND has finished it's run at the New York Film Festival. It will hit Netflix and theater November 17 and is recommended.

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