Saturday, February 24, 2018
OSCARS 2018: Mudbound (2017)
Mudbound,” a critically acclaimed Netflix production, was widely expected to be snubbed. Instead, the film scored four nominations, at least one in the bigger category of Best Supporting Actress. Though “Mudbound” seems unlikely to walk away with any Oscars at the start of next month, the fact that it got nominated at all is pretty surprising. Maybe that talk about bringing younger people into the voting body actually did amount to something.
“Mudbound” is the story of two families, both living in 1940s Mississippi. The white McAllan family – Henry has recently married Laura, the two quickly gaining two daughters – are promised a house in a nice part of town. It's a scam, the building already being promised to someone else. Instead, they end up moving into a dilapidated, small home in a mud field. Living on the same property is the black Jackson family. Conflict soon arises, mostly thanks to Henry's deeply racist father. As World War II begins, Henry's brother Jamie and the oldest Jackson son, Ronsel, are deployed to Europe. Upon returning home, the two men form a friendship. This causes the racial tension in the town to boil over.
The most compelling aspect of the film doesn't even emerge until about an hour into the movie. As a soldier on the battle front in World War II, Ronsel is treated no differently than anyone else. He takes orders, he fights for his country, he watches his friends die, he falls in love with a white German woman. When he returns home to Mississippi, he can't even walk through a grocery store door without being harassed and referred to as a slur. The only person who seems to understand Ronsel is Jamie. The two relate as veterans, as Jamie's PTSD is slowly leading him towards alcoholism. That the idea of a black man and a white man just being friends was enough to steer up racial intolerance in the 1940s south is disheartening. But likely, and sadly, true to life. “Mudbound” works best when focusing on Ronsel and Jamie's friendship and the struggles they face.
“Mudbound” didn't draw me in. That's just the way it is sometimes. While the performances are generally strong, it seems many of the film's more interesting characters – Carey Mulligan as a put-upon wife – are pushed increasingly towards the story's margins. The film frequently struck me as a compromised adaptation, trying to squeeze a novel's content into a movie's run time, keeping some elements but forced to cut other, clarifying moments. Or maybe the book is just like this too. I don't know, I haven't read it. It doesn't surprise that “Mudbound” would find praise and raves. Personally, it just didn't work for me. [5/10]