A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mississippi Grind is a drama about a gambler who forms a friendship with a man whom he thinks is a lucky charm. There's some fighting and punching (with facial cuts and bruises), plus a scene of mugging at knife point and a bloody stomach wound that's shown several times. Language isn't frequent, but includes several uses of "f--k" and "s--t." A man's naked bottom is shown briefly, and there's sex talk, flirting, and suggestions of sex. Characters drink fairly frequently in social situations, getting cheerfully drunk a couple of times. The movie takes a careful look at the ups and downs of gambling, emphasizing the "quit while you're ahead" method. Characters don't always behave well, but there are consequences from time to time. All in all, it's a rich movie that cinema-savvy older teens might appreciate.
What's the story?
Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn), a down-and-out gambler, can't seem to keep his head above water; he's divorced, with a daughter he never sees, and he's in trouble with money lenders. At a card game, he meets scrappy, fast-talking Curtis (Ryan Reynolds) and they become fast friends. Gerry discovers that, with Curtis at his side, he starts winning. So he suggests a gambling road trip to raise enough cash to clear his debts. At first, things seem to go well, but it turns out Curtis has some issues of his own to work through, and eventually Gerry falls into some of his old habits. After a devastating loss, the men must find out whether their friendship is worth hanging onto.
Is it any good?
This could have been an ordinary road trip/gambling movie, but instead it deals with human frailties, behavior, and desires; it offers layered characters, operating in a vivid world. The co-writer/co-director team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson, Sugar, It's Kind of a Funny Story) are great humanists who seem to care less about narrative flow than they do about organic characters. As a result, the characters they create are rich creations, with intriguing surfaces and complex inner workings.
Reynolds and Mendelsohn rise to their best ability here -- especially the latter, a great character actor who lands a rare leading role here (he usually plays lowlifes and bad guys). Tiny roles are filled out by strong presences like Alfre Woodard and James Toback, and Sienna Miller and Analeigh Tipton are excellent as a couple of hostesses. The filmmakers also take time to immerse the characters in a vivid atmosphere (Memphis, New Orleans, etc.), all in all making for a very satisfying ride.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Mississippi Grind's scenes of violence. Are they necessary to the story to demonstrate the downfalls of gambling? How did they make you feel?
Does the movie glamorize gambling? What are the positives and negatives of gambling?
Even though Gerry does some very bad things, do you still like him? Why?
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