Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, 2015’s ‘Mississippi Grind’ features Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds as the leads and was released by A24 on September 25, 2015. But what makes this film stand out in the genre of gambling movies, and why should it capture your attention now, eight years post-release?
What Does The Critics Say?
This American comedy-drama emerges from the collaboration of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who introduce a narrative that blends human relationships with the allure of gambling. Following its release, the film received notably positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds an impressive 91% approval rating based on 121 critic reviews, with an average rating of 7.3/10.
The critics’ consensus lauds the film for its compelling acting and its rich Southern atmosphere, praising its ability to transcend the typical boundaries of road movies and addiction dramas. Individual critics, on the other hand, have offered varied perspectives.
David Stratton remarked on the film’s fleeting presence in cinemas by suggesting it deserved a longer stay. Jason Bailey highlighted its character study, while Stephen Romei appreciated the unexpected narrative turns and the blues soundtrack. Tyler Smith, however, noted some shortcomings in dialogue and story but lauded the acting and cinematography.
Does ‘Mississippi Grind’ Deserve A Spot On Your Watchlist?
‘Mississippi Grind’ is an engaging yet complex film. The performances of Mendelsohn and Reynolds and their on-screen chemistry are worth praise. The film’s story, though not groundbreaking, is complete and satisfying. However, according to some, the story has a slow pace, and Reynolds’ character is predictable.
Aesthetic elements of the film draw comparisons to American dramas of the 1970s, with nods to films like ‘Nashville’ and ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’ This nostalgic quality, combined with its character-driven narrative, situates ‘Mississippi Grind’ in its own position within modern cinema. It’s also reminiscent of an era when cinema gave space to smaller, more character-driven stories.
The film begins in Dubuque, Iowa, and introduces us to Gerry (Mendelsohn) and Curtis (Reynolds). The dynamic between these two characters is central to the film. This relationship, initially based on mutual gambling interests, evolves into a layered exploration of their personalities.
Gerry’s deceptive outward appearance of a loser and Curtis’s seemingly flaky yet self-aware persona offer a nuanced exploration of friendship and life choices. The film’s focus on these aspects, along with its minimalist yet effective use of cinematography and editing, invites viewers into the world of its characters.
Cinematographically, the film is a masterclass in simplicity and focus. The directors’ decision to concentrate on facial expressions and subtle emotional shifts adds gravity to the characters’ interactions. This approach, coupled with Andrij Parekh’s photography and Boden’s editing, highlights the evolving dynamics of Gerry and Curtis’s friendship — a central theme of the film.
While some may find the storyline standard, the execution and the conclusion are pleasant. The film’s pacing is slow yet reflective of the gambler’s life, with elements of magical realism towards the end.