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Three Quickies: Mud, Identity Thief, Frances Ha 

In an effort to say at least a few words on everything I see this year, here are three short takes on recent pictures we haven't discussed much. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you've seen 'em (or want to).

Frances Ha
Modern dancer Frances (Greta Gerwig), suddenly apartment hunting when her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner) moves out, struggles to get her act together while her friends are increasingly settling into career and relationship grooves
Quickie Take: Less an explicit psychological mural than a suggestive sidewalk sketch but what artistry! Palpable energy and magical color. [In black and white]. A-

Frances Ha tickles me

Best in Show: Greta Gerwig but then she IS the show. The supporting cast is fine too including newcomer Mickey Sumner as best friend Sophie, Broadway star Charlotte D'Amboise as a dance guru, and Grace Gummer as an irritated former classmate.
Oscar? I'd love to emphatically promise that it has a true darkhorse shot at Actress (Greta Gerwig is at her most Gerwigian and it's beautiful), Director (this is arguably Noah Baumbach's finest film), Editing, and Original Screenplay (at least!) but these days little charming movies stay little (sigh). I know I sound like an ol' curmudgeon - GET OFF MY LAWN - but in truth this movie made me feel young... post-college young to be specific. Quarter century life crisis! 


Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman continuing his variety-free post Juno rut), family man and accountant, must apprehend conwoman "Sandy Patterson" (Melissa McCarthy) to undo the damage she's done to his reputation and bank account. 
Quickie Take: Lazily assumes joke-free laughs. Shamelessly pursues atonal "Redemptive Arc". Excruciating length, rail thin characterizations, plot girth D-


Best in Show Melissa McCarthy wins the only laughs but at what price? Rex Reed is an a-hole but maybe he had a a teensy-tiny possible point embedded in the awful rhetoric of his infamous "hippo" review. 
Oscar Chances? LOL. No, but it might unfortunately hurt the next Melissa McCarthy's chances at hardware for a Bridesmaids style comic breakthrough; This is what you've chosen to do with that well-earned goodwill?


A young teenager (Tye Sheridan) discovers a wanted man (Matthew McConaughey as "Mud") holed up on a nearby island in an abandoned motorboat, awaiting word from his woman (Reese Witherspoon) who is herself in some kind of trouble.
Quickie Take: Emotionally expressive, rarely weighed down by repetitive structure. Never content to do just one thing per scene, Mud attempts coming of age adventure, family drama, and romantic thriller with nearly equal flair.  B+

Jeff Nichols and Matthew McConaughey on the set of "Mud"

Best in Show: McConaughey but the whole cast is strong and Sheridan proves that Terence Malick was on to something when he cast him in Tree of Life. He's beautifully natural onscreen, never "child actor" forced. Can we start campaigning for him to receive a Best Young Actor nomination at the BFCA Critics Choice Awards next January?
Oscar Chances? Like Magic Mike before it, it will more likely bolster Matthew McConaughey's shot at an actual statue for something else entirely. Still, both Oscar and career opportunities are all about momentum and this movie, so quick on the heels of Take Shelter is setting writer/director Jeff Nichols up to break through in a major way. If he keeps up this pace and this quality, what a career he's going to have.
And Also: Congratulations to longtime frienquaintance Kris Tapley on getting the poster quote!

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Reader Comments (17)

So glad to hear you enjoyed Frances Ha and Mud as much as I did. I love what you said about it making you feel college-aged again. I think a lot of older critics/people don't "get" the film, but for twentysomethings like me, it's already become a favorite. Perfectly captures that awkward phase in between college and starting "real life" as an adult.

As for Mud, it reminds me so much of Martin Ritt's greatest films and feels so heavily influenced by the likes of Hud, etc. And I don't think the Paul Newman/Matthew McConaughey comparisons are unwarranted.

June 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJordan

Also, I think Frances Ha already is in the lead for best lines of the year, with so many quotables ones like "Ahoy, sexy," "Undateable," "I look like I have a question," 27 is old, though." I could go on and on.

June 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJordan

I liked Frances Ha a lot. However as a New Yorker and a man of color it really bothered me that the NY Gerwig and Baumbach portray is 100% white. It's not the city i know, love and live in. Couldn't one of the dancers in the company be of color... any color!!!!!

June 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

Man did I fall in love with Frances Ha. I left the theater and immediately called friends to tell them to go see it. Even went and brought my parents for round two. Dad cried. Like with Beasts Of The Southern Wild last year, it's always nice to see something Best Of the Year worthy in summer. Gives the whole year a lift.

But I hated Mud. I can easily see how it could be someone else's cup of tea, but it was not for me. Kinda felt like a boys club movie and it just put me off all the way through. Great kids though.

June 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTB

I have no idea why I can never pick out Mamie Gummer in a movie until the closing credits. It keeps happening to me, Frances Ha included.

June 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

I don't understand the GLOBAL "Identity Thief" hatred. I mean it's no "Cries & Whispers" but I'll take that over what seems to be the 7 359 Superhero Hazardous for the Brain/Soul Movie that comes out every FREAKING year!

June 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterstjeans

Correction: It's Grace Gummer in "Frances Ha." Not Mamie Gummer. Understandable because they look so much alike.

June 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWill

@Will-- One of the great joys of life is watching how Meryl Streep's genes have overwhelmed the genetic pool to make a series of mini-Meryls, each more Meryl-y than the last. Bless.

June 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTB

Glad someone else clarified out the Mamie/Grace thing. I knew as soon as I saw the trailer "THAT'S THE OTHER ONE!" With luck, she'll be a bit more interesting to watch than her sister has proven to be, despite some pretty good opportunities to showcase her chops.

But really, seeing that Streepian bone structure and blonde waves in black-and-white is giving me serious Meryl-in-Manhattan flashbacks.

June 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHayden W

So was Reese any good in Mud?

June 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

Saw Mud and loved it. It had a McCarthyesque vibe going for it which made me enjoy it even more; terrific photography with even better performances especially from Tye Sheridan.

June 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

"Frances Ha" and "Mud" are my two favorite films of the year so far!

And YES so much to Best Editing for "Frances Ha." So economic, so tight. The scenes/montage where she visits her family in Sacramento for the holiday is ingeniously cut. I can't think of another scene in recent memory that so poignantly captures the ineffable briefness of such a vacation, the kind that's over before you know it.

June 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Ugh. Frances Ha is SO. GOOD. that it makes me want to punch something. Near-perfectly conceived, scored, acted, and edited, there wasn't a single thing I disliked about it. And it contains the single best depiction of a modern dance company and performance that I've ever seen, always just on the verge of parody without ever tipping over. Best of the year, so far. The only competition it has is Before Midnight, which inspired the best (read: only) one-sentence review I have ever managed to write: No, Judd Apatow, THIS is 40.

June 21, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Frances Ha is clearly one of the best of the year, along with Before Midnight, which I've finally seen. Indie Spirit Awards, here we come! :D

Seriously tho, I know The Gerwig is gonna have an uphill battle if the film is seriously in consideration for Oscars (I'd love to see them both score easy Original Screenplay nods tho) but I NEED Delpy and Hawke to score His and Her Leading nominations next Jan. They're just much too good to ignore. I knew Delpy was gonna bring it again after her showcase in Before Sunset (and she did!) but how Hawke matched her and then some was amazing to see. He shocked the hell outta me. So many perfect cips in the hotel room fight!

June 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMark The First

Grace Gummer explains why I didn't pick out Mamie this time. I thought I was losing my mind.

June 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

I'd love to see "Frances Ha" (it's not out here yet). I also think it might make a great double bill with "Oh Boy" (which is getting a US release, yeah!).

June 22, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteranna

The other day I saw Frances Ha and was disappointed. I love Greta from Greenberg so the movie didn't need to sell me on her. But the character and her journey is so go-nowhere -- that even at 86 minutes the movie was too long. Might have made sense as a 30 minute pilot for HBO?

November 5, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

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