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Hello and welcome to the movie blog of author John DeFrank - FilmZ and Guy Sobriquet Malone - Researcher

Mudbound


Mudbound review by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

Last year at Sundance, Netflix scored a coup when the network bought the rights to Mudbound.  The critically acclaimed film recently scored four Oscar nominations--all particularly of note to women and African Americans--and set some records in the process: Adapted Screenplay for Dee Rees (the first time ever a Black woman has been nominated in this category), Supporting Actress for Mary J. Blige (the first time an actor has been nominated for a performance in a film directed by a Black woman), Original Song--"Mighty River"--by Blige (the first person ever nominated for performance and for an original song), and Cinematography for Rachel Morrison (the first woman to receive a nomination for her work in this category).  Do you need more reasons to see it?  All right: Mudbound is a moving, exceptional adaptation of Hillary Jordan's (another woman) best-seller.

Depression-era Tennessee: Laura (Carey Mulligan), an educated woman on the cusp of spinsterhood, meets Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke) and marries him after a whirlwind courtship.  They have two daughters in rapid succession, and just as quickly, Laura begins to question her haste when Henry surprises her with his lifelong dream: to buy a farm in Mississippi and, worse, to invite his racist "Pappy" (Jonathan Banks) to move in with them.  When Henry's brother, the charismatic Jamie (Garrett Hedlund), comes on the scene, we quickly see the chemistry between him and Laura, a magnetism not lost on Henry.  But the tenuous relationship between the brothers and the simmering animosity between Jamie and his "Pappy" (Jonathan Banks) drive Jamie away and into the WWII Army Air Corps.

In a concurrent storyline, we have the Jacksons--Hap (Rob Morgan) and Florence (Mary J. Blige)--a Black family that for years has farmed on a parcel of the land Henry recently bought.  Hap is also a local preacher, while Florence is the stoic matriarch of their large, close-knit family.  They had been saving to buy their land before the McAllans arrived, but now that dream has died and their oldest son Ronsel (Jason Mitchell), also heads off to fight in Europe.

As the war rages, the lives of the two families intersect, placing in stark relief the interdependence necessary to scratch an existence out of that harsh land alongside the racist culture that prevents them from being true neighbors on any personal level.  When the war ends, Jamie and Ronsel return home, and the relationship that develops out of their common experience challenges the deep-seated animosities of Jim Crow America. But in the greater picture, Florence and Laura are the heart of the story; we see it through their eyes, we hear it from their lips, we feel it with their hearts.

After discussing the Academy Award nominations Mudbound has gleaned, and our rapturous review thus far, it must seem as though we hold it in even higher esteem than does AMPAS.  Well, yes and no.  At times the film devolves into melodrama; the racists in the film, though not an exaggeration, frequently become stereotypes; and it is certainly a tragic story.  Even given all of that, Mudbound is one of the best films of 2017.  As the weeks wind down to the 2018 Oscars, and cinephiles are rushing out to catch the bigger name films, we encourage readers to find a Netflix subscription, if only temporarily, and see this film because it is history-making.
8.0 out of 10 on an Entertainment Scale
8.5 out of 10 on an Artistic and Awards Scale

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