The Toronto festival programmer noted that the film reveals the crack in the foundation of America. A crack? How about a bottomless pit of racism and hatred that time has done nothing to fill and current political climes nurture. The film itself is a somewhat by the numbers adaptation of the novel featuring some interesting character performances but nary enough depth in scripting to overcome its weaknesses.
Messy yet mesmerizing. Poignant and disquieting, and everything I want to see when pursuing a socially conscious melodrama. There's something to be said about Rachel Morrison's striking cinematography. The performances speak for themselves, and wouldn't upset me to see this film when best ensemble at SAG.
As Norma Desmond said, "I *am* big! It's the pictures that got small." Mudbound is a Big Picture shrunk down for Netflix, but even setting that aside, it wastes what it does well—a multitude of perspectives—by sinking into melodrama that feels like our era's version of an earlier era's version of an earlier era. Not without some impact, but 40% of it could have sprung from collective unconscious of Oscar season.
I wanted to like it and I ended up liking it more than I thought I could. It is beautiful and pretty fucking ugly. It talks about a lot of what is wrong today without a hint of hamfisted politics or emotional manipulation. I can't single out anyone in this powerful cast, but all the kudos in the world for Dee Rees, Mako Kamitsuna and Rachel Morrison.
It's that thing when you flaunt your arthouse muscles at the beginning (Malick or Faulkneresque v.o.'s surprised, delighted, me) and go full Hollywood at the 90 minute mark because your producer needed an ending that people could talk about. Editing sometimes betrays the talent of actors. Photography mostly too glossy and distant for my taste. For some reason I wanted more Claire Denis-y frames for this trauma.
Though "important" movies engineered to win awards and pamper self-congratulatory, middlebrow liberal audiences are probably the kind of movie I am most congenitally predisposed to balk at, I am often interested to see what they will do (almost entirely from a sociological standpoint). MUDBOUND is actually fascinating despite leading us inexorably into overblown apotheosis. Some imagination, very strong cast.
A cinematic fugue of voices, weaving the dissonant song of race that built America, of black people "whose blood", to quote Achille Mbembe, "stains the entire surface of modernity". My only real complaint is that the movie could have been longer. Never less than compelling, the second half becomes more squarely about the two men back from the war, while other characters don't benefit from the same development.
Rees improves greatly upon her source material through her interest in and understanding of perspective. Admittedly the film drags at its start (largely due to its weighty reliance of narrative voice-over). Yet, Mudbound remains to deliver an emotionally rich and wonderfully visualized epic of the American South.