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The Mudge Boy
The Mudge Boy
Actors: Emile Hirsch, Tom Guiry, Richard Jenkins, Pablo Schreiber, Zachary Knighton
Genres: Drama
R     2006     1hr 34min

The mudge boy chronicles the troubled life of duncan mudge a 14-year-old-misfit. Duncan while vying for the attention of his vacant father struggles to fill the emptiness brought on by his mothers sudden death. Studio: St...  more »

     
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Movie Details

Actors: Emile Hirsch, Tom Guiry, Richard Jenkins, Pablo Schreiber, Zachary Knighton
Genres: Drama
Sub-Genres: Family Life
Studio: Strand Releasing
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 05/09/2006
Original Release Date: 01/01/2003
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2003
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 1hr 34min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 7
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A Quietly Brilliant Little Film About Coping and Other Atroc
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 02/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Michael Burke both wrote and directed this first class, finely wrought exploration of coming of age in the emotional battlefield of rural bigotry. Rarely has so much been said so successfully with so little dialogue. Burke is clearly a gifted filmmaker about whom we should be hearing much! The film opens with what appears to be an idyllic country road over which a person on an old bicycle is delivering eggs. As the credits are ending we see the person on the bicycle walk up a steep incline then fall to the ground. As the actual film opens we discover that this person was the mother of Duncan (Emile Hirsch in a career making performance), a fourteen year old young lad who is left mourning with his distant father Edgar (Richard Jenkins). Unable to wholly cope with the loss of his mother, Duncan holds closely to her remnants - a chicken as a pet who his mother taught him could be calmed by putting the chicken's head in Duncan's mouth, an old fake fur coat he wears to bed, and some kitchen skills he learned at her side. Edgar is resentful that Duncan isn't more helpful on their small farm and is shaken by observing Duncan's means of mourning his mother.

Duncan is a loner, hungry for relating, and encounters neighboring Perry (Tom Guiry, in another gripping performance), a seemingly macho kid who apparently is beaten (if not more) by his low-class father. The two bond, slowly, out of mutual needs. Perry defends Duncan's ridiculing by the local rowdy kids and even encourages Duncan to join the drinking bouts with the group. Yet Duncan remains an outsider, longing to be included, and when certain events occur with Perry (Perry urges Duncan to put on his mother's wedding dress in the secrecy of the barn and then progresses to having Duncan perform sexual acts with him, declaring all the while that he, Perry, is not gay...) only to have the incident be partially discovered by Duncan's father. At odds with what to do with his strange acting son, Edgar forces Duncan to work at meaningless jobs on the farm, help with the haying, and makes Duncan observe the burning of the mother's clothes and belongings.

Duncan seeks Perry's consolation after the above events and despite Perry's homophobic comments, Duncan manages to gain the kiss from Perry that he so desires as a resurrection of affection desperately missing in his life. Perry is further abused by his own father and participates to a degree in an incident of harassment by the local rowdies of Duncan and his pet chicken. It is the method in which this final confrontation ends that speaks so strongly about Duncan's needs and Perry's buried feelings. After the confrontation Duncan rides his bicycle home to where his father finally perceives the agony chewing Duncan's soul and the movie ends in one of the most life affirming moments ever captured on film.

The photography is magnificent, the musical score is spare and enhancing, and the acting on the part of every member of this well directed cast is superb. This is a film that deserves wide audience exposure, and especially for those young people who are struggling with their sexuality in the ugly isolation surrounding the lives of the main characters of this excellent film. Grady Harp, February 06
"
Mesmerizing character study with perfect performances
James D. Leverton | San Marcos, CA USA | 09/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Writer/director Michael Burke's "The Mudge Boy" is a small wonder--a methodically paced, nearly plotless meditation on loneliness, grief and the pain of being an outsider in a small town that is the only home you've ever known.

Duncan Mudge (Emile Hirsch), make no mistake about it, is one strange kid, and he would be regardless of where he was growing up. Unfortunately for him, it's in a small country farm town where the only kids his age seemingly are a gang of unruly, bored troublemakers. Making matters worse for Duncan, he is an obvious momma's boy whose mother has just died and whose father (Richard Jenkins) is a taciturn, emotionless type who doesn't understand or connect with his son on any level. Their relationship deteriorates further when Duncan, who obviously misses his mother greatly, takes to wearing her fur coat to bed and trying on her makeup. He also has a strange (to say the least) relationship with his mother's favorite chicken, whose head he tends to stick in his mouth (something about calming the chicken down). Then one day he starts hanging out with one of the town punks, a randy farm boy played by Tom Guiry ("Mystic River"), who is so supremely sexual in nature even the farm animals are not safe from him. He and Duncan, who is starving for love and attention, begin a tentative (and extremely homoerotic) friendship that turns on a shocking act of violence and degradation that will transform them both forever.

"The Mudge Boy" is definitely not for everyone. Methodically and hypnotically paced, it plays more like a French film than anything I have seen from this country in a long time. Many minutes go by in which very little, if anything happens and the supporting cast (all of whom are excellent) is made up of very average-looking characters who look like they just stepped out of the Appalachian Mountains, which is refreshing but will come across as off-putting to some. And then there's the relationship with Duncan and that chicken, which is unbelievably strange and leads to an ending that many people will absolutely hate and not understand, although after seeing the film twice, I must say it is honest and I cannot see the film ending any other way.

The real joy here is the performances. As Duncan, Emile Hirsch gives an eye-opening performance and is totally believable as the town oddball. Those who know him only as the handsome, charismatic prep school student in "The Emperor's Club" or the aspiring politician in "The Girl Next Door" may not even recognize him, even though he wears no makeup and changes his appearance simply through facial expression and a rather vacant look in his eyes. And Tom Guiry is a revelation as the older "friend." He is overtly, swaggeringly sexual, and entirely believable as a white trash farm kid. It is hard to believe this is the same actor who got his start as a child actor playing all-American kids in "The Sandlot" and "Lassie." This film, and his similar knockout role in "Mystic River" portends a bright future for this talented young man. And the wonderful character actor Richard Jenkins has one of the best roles of his career as Duncan's grieving father, who finally manages to connect with his son and give him the love he needs when he most needs it. There is no way it will happen, given the extremely limited release of this film and the fact that Strand Releasing probably has no money for Academy Award advertising, but I truly believe he deserves a supporting actor Oscar nomination for his performance.

"The Mudge Boy" will undoubtedly be marketed on DVD as a gay-themed film, but I think that is unfair to the film and gay audiences. Duncan probably is gay, but might also just be looking for love any place he can get it, while Guiry is simply a sexual magnet who would have sex with anything available if need be. Anyway, the film transcends that genre and works primarily as a meditation on loneliness and ostracism. It's definitely at times as strange as its main character. Cosmopolitan viewers, of whom I am one, will find much to like. Others, well, you have been warned. ***** (out of *****)"
The Mudge Boy
C. Rice-Gonzalez | Bronx, NY | 10/01/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"One of the most moving coming age films I have ever seen! The Mudge Boy is the "different," or in this case gay boy, in a small town and the struggles he experiences in his high testosterone town and with his father whose feelings and love for his son are imprisoned by his macho. The power and intensity of growing up "different" was written in such a strong and touching way that the film has stayed with me long after seeing it. I am going to buy it immediately when it comes out on DVD. The Mudge Boy is a film that should become a classic in gay filmmaking and should be required viewing for gay studies classes. If there is ever an official membership into the proverbial "Queer" club, the film should be given along with the "membership" card."
I Know This Mudge Is True
Connoisseur Rat | 04/08/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"In viewing the difficult-to-stomach "Mudge Boy", I was reminded of one of acclaimed author Kurt Vonnegut's Rules for Writing Fiction: "Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them." Well, writer/director Michael Burke must have had that rule etched into the arm of his director's chair, since this movie's adorable and engaging main character has a most difficult time of it, to say the least. (And I'm not even talking about the Duncan Mudge character, by the way - I'm talking about the chicken!)

But the guileless and grief-stricken Duncan doesn't have it too easy either; struggling with the recent loss of his mother in a rugged and rural environment that seemingly has no place for him, and a reticent father who just wishes the boy would "grieve like a normal person" (i.e. start bonding more with the local kids instead of with mom's pet chickens, and stay out of her fur coats and wedding dresses while you're at it, Dunc).

"People do weird stuff sometimes," says Duncan to his only friend (and possible love interest) Perry, and this line could work very well as a thesis statement for many of its characters actions. 'Cause even though Duncan (played with striking bravery and purity by Emile Hirsh) is known as the local weirdo, the randy farmhand Perry (played with much swagger and bravado by Tommy Guiry, who up till this film had taken more docile and sensitive roles, so really is impressive with the level of latent menace he brings to the role) doesn't exactly keep to the straight and narrow himself.

Early on in the film, in providing two chickens for father Edgar's helper friend, Duncan says to him (about the chickens): "These are good layers." Which also struck me as being a good comment about the film itself, since this mood piece of pain and redemption is all about layers - and not only the chicken kind.

There are the competing layers of guilt and lust in the lonely rural young men who are so desperate to connect that they flirt dangerously with the lines of taboo within their machismo posturing (or expectations thereof). There are the layers of love and scorn in the brilliant Richard Jenkins as Edgar, not approving of his sons choices but not withholding love just because he holds back his approval. There are the layers of connection and betrayal, especially in the brutal and infamous Mudge packing scene, where Perry defiles both Duncan's sacred place and his physical space as well.

Then there are the visual layers, the spectacular cinematography with its carefully composed shots consisting of frames within frames - shots through doors and windows, and wide, layered shots with natural motion, all nestled comfortably beneath a plaintive and spare mostly-acoustic soundtrack.

There is almost a pugilistic poignancy to the "Mudge Boy" - a poetry without words that hits you hard in the heart and in the gut. And even though there's so much malice in the film, there is at least the attempt at a tender - if not completely happy - ending. But, for this viewer, that attempted uplift came just a little too late (and after a few too many shocking moments) to be truly soothing - it's kind of like a band-aid applied to a gushing wound.

Still, there is at least some degree of catharsis and understanding amidst the bloodletting. In the director's commentary track, he spells out what the game plan was for himself and his DP: "Let's be bold in our choices. Let's just go for it. Let's not go halfway. Let's make strong decisions and take risks and stand behind them." And to that I feel they succeeded and remained very true to their vision. And in "The Mudge Boy," we get an uncomfortable up close look at how American rural men sometimes have to subvert their sensitive side in order to thrive, and how those who cannot manage this subversion must somehow struggle to survive.

Not recommended for those who like feelgood films, lots of plot, and snappy dialog. Highly recommended to those who enjoy long, visually meditational and lyrical scenes of life at its most harrowing, where freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose."