The subject of addiction has been covered on many occasions throughout the history of cinema. One thinks back to Nicholas Cage’s fine turn in Leaving Las Vegas or maybe Jared Leto’s descent from ‘respectability’ into despair, in the harrowing Requiem For A Dream. There are many…
Of course addiction can take a number of different forms and Mississippi Grind, whilst not a tale of addiction per se, uses the life-ruining affects of such an affliction as a backdrop to what is essentially a road movie, with ‘addictive tendencies.’
Curtis and the Mick Jagger /Dustin Hoffman-alike, Gerry, are a couple of loners who, on the surface at least, couldn’t be any more different. Smooth charmer and all round people person Curtis is quick to introduce himself to Gerry (and everyone else present for that matter), around a low-stakes card table, somewhere inconsequential in small town USA.
Two kindred spirits spark up some sort of instantaneous camaraderie, apparently delighting in the non-judgemental nature of each other’s company.
With each sharing the same fervent desire and more precisely need to hit the road, they set off on a road trip through the underbelly of America’s deep south. Their aim? Well, it’s hard to put your finger on with any degree of certainty, but that golden ticket mentality of striking it rich is never far from the forefront of their minds. It’s a common thread that binds them together through the manifold scrapes and tribulations of their journey. Needless to say, it’s a rather unstable rock upon which to build their new found friendship.
Both men seem driven, however, by more than just aspirations of wealth and the high life.
Gerry is a man with significant personal carnage left trailing in his wake, having used and abused those closest and dearest to him once too often. Addiction has taken hold over the years and wreaked its inevitable havoc.
Curtis on the other hand is a little trickier to pin down.
Whilst he seems to have it all together and crucially, is more than able to walk away from the dealers table no matter the circumstance; the good looking guy with the gift of the gab and a twinkle in his eye is clearly running from or should that be searching for, something?
Curtis and Gerry, like many road trip companions before them, are restless souls.
Its an intriguing film that reveals Gerry and Curtis in their best and worst moments, but crucially, never judges them.
Very natural but above all convincing turns from both Ryan Nelson and Ben Mendelsohn in their respective roles, along with excellent direction from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck who gauge just the right level of emotion throughout without veering into mawkishness or over sentimentality, makes Mississippi Grind a low key yet highly valuable addition to this year’s best offerings.