500 Days Of Film Reviews Mississippi Grind And Finds A Compelling Road Movie About Friendship And Addiction
Gerry (Ben Mendlesohn) is a talented gambler. He can read people and recognise their ‘tells’.
However, despite his expertise, Gerry is down on his luck.
He owes money to, well, everyone. And these mounting debts are starting to become dangerous.
When Gerry meets charismatic poker player, Curtis (Ryan Reynolds), he feels that his luck is about to change.
Gerry convinces Curtis to join him on a road trip to a legendary, high stakes poker game in New Orleans. The two make their way down the Mississippi River, gambling in every bar, racetrack, casino and pool hall that they can find - both in search of a win big enough to set them free.
Is It Any Good?
I’ll admit that I know very little about poker. Gambling has just never really interested me and I did wonder if this might impede my enjoyment of Mississippi Grind. However, I needn’t have worried. Director, Amy Boden’s film is less about poker and more about about the highs and lows of addiction and friendship.
These two themes of addiction and friendship - along with the powerful performances from Mendlesohn and Reynolds - are what I really enjoyed about Mississippi Grind.
Mississippi Grind explores the reality of addiction. In one authentic, atmospheric scene after another, the film shows us first the incredible highs of gambling (the thrill, the risk, the potential of life-changing reward) and then highlights the ugly face of addiction. We see how addiction feeds like a parasite off its host, draining them of anything decent and good in their lives.
Ben Mendlesohn is superb as Gerry. This is not an easy character to like - he lies and steals to feed his gambling addiction. He alienates everyone - including his wife and young daughter.
It is a testament to this film and its performances that we still care about Gerry. I found myself desperately wanting him to win and to stop gambling when the going was good. I really felt crushed when he lost.
Mississippi Grind is also a film about friendship. When Gerry meets Curtis, he hardly dares to imagine that the two could become friends. Curtis (brilliantly played by Reynolds) is charismatic, he attracts people with his colourful stories and carefree attitude. The two men are drawn to one and another and soon form a deep and lasting bond.
As I was watching, I started to wonder how long it has been since I have seen a film explore male friendship in this way. These days, it seems to me, movies just won’t let men develop genuine friendships - not without ridiculous amounts of gross-out at any rate. Mississippi Grind feels rather refreshing as a result.
While the film focuses on Gerry and Curtis, it also introduces some powerful female characters. Alfre Woodard is fantastic as Sam and Sienna Miller is great as Simone. I also enjoyed Robin Weigert’s performance as Gerry’s ex-wife, Dorothy. In a relatively short scene, she shows us the damage that can be caused from having a relationship with an addict.
Mississippi Grind has been criticised for lacking a final, twist - a sting in its tail. It is true that the film maintains a low key atmosphere and does not build to a great denouement.
However, I was satisfied with the movie’s ending - it felt, to me, true to the themes of addiction and friendship that run through this compelling film.
As I watched Mississippi Grind, I realised that Australian actor, Ben Mendlesohn, was also brilliant in Slow West. He also stars in the forthcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Have you seen Mississippi Grind? If you have, what did you think of this movie?
Do let me know… leave me a comment in the box below!