when I sip a drink of whiskey. Addiction is scary, and you need to hold onto the thought of that when you are performing activities that could slide you down the clichéd “slippery slope”.
Don’t mistake me; I’m not up on a soap box telling people not to do those things. All vices can be fun in small doses, as long as they do not affect our lives and our relationships. I’m not talking about being a functioning addict; I’m simply talking about knowing when to say that you’ve lost the hand and you’re not going to bet anymore of your money tonight.
Ah. With that, onto the flick (and I’m already half a Microsoft Word page in!).
Mississippi Grind is first and foremost about gambling (as the title allows you to see). The title itself is reminiscent of other films that have focused on gambling (see California Split, The Cincinnati Kid, etc.). And rarely have I watched a movie where I truly felt that spark as well. From the opening scene where Gerry meets Curtis, you see what is driving them to the table or to the track: it’s fun to win, and sometimes, it’s fun to lose. To capture the allure of something like this is a testament to good film, and the tactics that the film uses to capture this are different than most.
First, the film is not hurried. For some in the audience, this may lead to boredom; however, I found myself being sucked into the story more and caring about the characters more. We are allowed to see different scenery shots of St. Louis, of Memphis, of Little Rock. That’s an amazing testament to the unhurried style of the movie when you consider that in most of these shots there are no actors; they are essentially still photos being placed one after the other in order to place the characters into the dingy, grimy portions of the Midwest. They don’t just show the Arch in St. Louis, or Grand Avenue with its Fabulous Fox theatre, they show some of the smaller areas as well. This allows you to forget you’re watching a movie, and the two lead actors further bring you into the story.
I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t seen actor Ben Mendelsohn in anything else. He owns this movie as Gerry, a divorced real-estate agent living with his cat, and it is obvious that Gerry has a gambling issue. He plays this role wonderfully, allowing you to slowly find nuances of his character traits and background. Brilliantly playing is foil is Ryan Reynolds, again showing that he can accomplish so much more than just Hollywood Rom Com status. This first scene between the two takes place at a grungy poker table in Iowa. Reynolds sits down and immediately breathes life into the place, and Gerry is of course hesitant at first. However, they sink into a comradery before eventually joining together to go on a trip down the Mississippi and gamble their way into a high stakes poker game. The movie never quite shows you where it is going, most like a game of Texas Hold’Em: with each turn or river card, the game can completely change. This happens throughout with their relationship as well, showing that true friendship between men is often a mix of love, rivalry, jealousy, anger, and fun moments.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"