Friday, December 28, 2018

The Mule [2018]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (2 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (K. Jensen) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (J. Hassenger) review

The Mule [2018] (directed by Clint Eastwood, screenplay by Nick Schenk, based on the New York Times Magazine article "The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year-Old Drug Mule" by Sam Dolnick [NYT] [IMDb]) is probably going to be my favorite movie of the year, or maybe it will be this year's A Star Is Born [2018], both incidentally about struggling deeply flawed men and both somewhat surprisingly starring/costarring Bradley Cooper)  IMHO in the current case deserving Eastwood consideration for best actor in a leading role and possibly a nomination for best director.

The story here, inspired by the true case of Leo Sharp, fictionalized here as Earl Stone (played by Clint Eastwood himself) was about an octogenarian, vet, farmer, who had arguably squandered his life maintaining a rock-star celebrity status at quaint (and to most of us utterly irrelevant) "day lily" conventions.  He'd talk up the ladies, buy entire bars full of people rounds of drinks.  Everybody loved him ... there ... at those "day lily" conventions.  Back home?  Not so good.  He missed his own daughter's wedding (Stone's daughter played by Eastwood's own daughter Alison Eastwood).  Why? / How?  He was whooping it up at some random "day lily" convention in some random midwestern town, buying a round of drinks for another, random wedding party of strangers, somewhere else.  What a mess...

Then, technology (the internet) passed him by.  No longer did people need to go to "day lily" conventions to buy "the latest" in "day lily seed" / "technology."  They could just buy these things, sitting at home with the click of a mouse.  So not only did his "celebrity status" collapse but so did his business.  So the guy that "everybody knew" in this sliver thin horticulturist subculture only ten years back faced foreclosure on his farm/business.  What to do?

He gets a tip, that since he used to like to drive to all those conventions (and apparently never ever was even stopped by the police for any traffic violation) that ... "there'd be some people" who'd be "interested in hiring someone like him" to ... (discretely) "drive some merchandise" from Point A to Point B.

With few options and many past bridges burned, he takes the tip and ... soon he's serving as a courier (a mule) for ... El Chapo's Sinaloa's drug cartel.  Does he know?  (probably)  Does he care? (probably not).  A man of many regrets, he takes the job first to survive, and as he starts getting good at it (and the money gets ever better) he starts using that money to do some random / poignant good (even for his estranged family).  But yes, he spends at least some of it on "dancing (at 80+ more like shuffling) the night away" with small-town 40+ year old prostitutes who, well, "enjoy his company" ;-) ... Still "livin' the dream" / "rockstar" ... ;-)

So ... does this (old) man have a conscience?  Robert Redford's recent Old Man and a Gun [2018] treads similar territory -- both Eastwood and Redford know themselves now to be "old men" and seem to be telling us that "narcissism / sociopathy" don't necessarily get cured with old age.

Still, does Eastwood's Earl Stone have / gain a conscience?  I'll let you discern that for yourselves if you see the movie.

I really do think that the movie does an excellent job of portraying someone who was clearly flawed and (perhaps) trying to do better (as perhaps best he can).  One excellent murky mess of a story!

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