TIFF 2015 Review: Mississippi Grind
Co-directors and writers Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden have carved notable careers from crafting films about flawed, self-destructive characters living on the precipice of society. From their debut Half-Nelson (directed solely by Fleck) to the more recent festival favorite It’s Kind of a Funny Story, they have imagined some of the most textured and believable characters in recent cinema. As directors, they have had the tremendous luck of having some of the best American (and Canadian!) actors and actresses as their leads, and thus, it is no surprise that they have masterminded their latest film, Mississippi Grind, as one with gambling at its center.
Its grainy opening shot of a rainbow against the Iowa sky provides a sort of divination for Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn, one of the preeminent character actors of his generation), a down on his luck real estate agent. Owing an undisclosed amount of money to various lenders (one played in a brief cameo by the wonderful Alfre Woodard), he convinces his new poker buddy Curtis (Ryan Reynolds) to embark on a road trip with him to New Orleans, in the hopes of winning a substantial payout at a high-rollers card game there.
Curtis, at first glance the epitome of what Gerry longs to be, has inner turmoil and demons of his own, and Reynolds captures his struggles perfectly. Mendelsohn continues his streak of playing precariously wreckless outsiders (most recently on tv in the award-worthy Bloodline) but, where his previous characters had glints of malice in their eyes, here his eyes carry guilt, desperation and, finally, hope. Beauties Sienna Miller and Analeigh Tipton bring gravitas to their limited screen time as well.
Mississippi Grind is worth rolling the dice for.