Mudbound (2017) starring Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, & Mary J. Blige

NOTE: This review contains MILD spoilers for the film (which opens in theaters on NOV 17th).

I was lucky enough to attend a pre-screening of this film (produced by Netflix Studios) at Landmark E St in DC last week. I ran into two friends/movie fans there; we ALL liked it (though it contains some dark, gritty, and violent moments). It will stay in your mind for some time, no doubt. The director is Dee Rees, an openly gay African-American woman, who made the critical indie coming-of-age drama, Pariah. (I read about this film, BUT haven’t seen yet.) At Sundance, Mudbound received a standing ovation. 

The story is one part fiction (based on a novel w/ a white female protagonist) and one part fact (based on real events in the life of a black family). In the hands of another screenwriter, two different films would’ve been made from this material- one focusing on genteel/educated Tennessee spinster turned wife/mother, Laura McAllan (British actress Carey Mulligan) and her straight-talking/stubborn husband, Henry (Jason Clarke, an Aussie); the other on the African-American family farming part of the McAllan’s ancestral land in Mississippi, headed by Hap Jackson (Rob Morgan) and his wife, Florence, Mary J. Blige (the R&B singer). What ties these two threads together is the unlikely (and potentially dangerous) friendship between Laura’s charming/handsome brother-in-law, Jamie (Garrett Hedlund, giving a strong/layered performance), and the Jackson’s eldest son, Ronsel (Jason Mitchell, a fresh/compelling young actor recently in Straight Outta Compton).

Both Jamie and Ronsel, though of different ages and races, are WWII vets suffering through symptoms of PTSD after returning home to rural America. Jamie takes to drinking and wasting time, which greatly disappoints Henry, the responsible older brother and family man. Laura has strong feelings for Jamie, though she has long repressed them. Unlike his father, Ronsel can’t quietly acquiesce to the white people in town (whether it be Henry, his blatantly racist father- Pappy, shop owners, or even the sheriff). Hap and Florence worry about their son, who quietly seethes upon realizing the (very limited) role he will have as an adult black man in the segregated South. 

Watch the trailer for the film here:

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Top 10 Moments from Selma (NOW PLAYING)

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NOTE: This post contains mild SPOILERS.

10) J. Edgar Hoover (Dylan Baker) tells President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) that the FBI can create a wedge in the family of MLK, Jr. (David Oyelowo).  

9) Coretta Scott King (Carmen Ejogo) quietly meets with Malcolm X in a church.  He offers assistance to the movement. 

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8)  Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey) punches out a policeman who violently lay hands on her in front of the Selma courthouse.  

7) LBJ tells Governor George Wallace (Tim Roth) that “no way in Hell” will he be on the same page as the backward-thinking man when it comes to history. 

6) Coretta confronts Martin about her fears and insecurities, including the other women in his life.    

5) Rev. Reeve, a white Episcopal priest from Boston, is attacked by a group of young (also white) men.  (I didn’t know about this event before!)

 

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4) The prayer on the Edmund Pettis Bridge- a silent, BUT powerful moment.

3) Some little girls in their Sunday best discussing Coretta’s hair before the church bombing (of the 16th Street Church in Birmingham). 

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2) Amelia Boynton’s “you are already prepared” speech to Coretta- VERY well-written, touching, and inspiring!  (Ms. Boynton is still alive at age 103!  She’ll be a guest of honor on Tuesday night’s State of the Union speech.)

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1) MLK, Jr.’s emotionally-charged speech at Jimmie Lee Jackson’s funeral.  (Jimmy, an unarmed black man, was shot and killed by a state trooper in a diner.  This was witnessed by his mother and elderly grandfather.)