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"Mud," the third feature-length film from Little Rock native Jeff Nichols, was released in town last Friday. Here's what critics, the film's actors, and Nichols himself are saying.

"A newly minted American classic. ... In three features over the course of six years, Mr. Nichols has offered a vision of American life that is regional, though never provincial. But 'Mud' suggests that there's nowhere he can't go. It's a movie that holds out hope for the movies' future." — Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

"Nichols' next film will likely be even better — and so will the one after that. Because this isn't just a movie. It's the firm confirmation of a career." — Stephen Whitty, New Jersey Star-Ledger

"Mr. Nichols's screenplay is perhaps a little too heavily plotted, especially toward the end, when everything comes together neatly and noisily, but he more than compensates with graceful rhythm, an unfussy eye for natural beauty and a sure sense of character and place. ...A good story is not just about some crazy stuff that happens but also about the voice that does the telling. And Mr. Nichols's voice is a distinctive and welcome presence in American film." — A.O. Scott, New York Times

"It's a film about getting your heart broken and how we recover from that. It's also about ... a dying way of life in the South.

"As the whole United States gets a little more homogenized and everybody gets cable TV and everything gets pumped in from the rest of the world, whatever was unique about the South, it changes. That's not to say it totally goes away, but it's definitely changing. You can go from one town to another and there's a Best Buy and a Home Depot and a McDonald's and it all kind of looks the same. There's a character development that happens — everyone begins to talk the same, sound the same, and listen to the same music. And that culture becomes less unique." — Nichols

"Having grown up in Tennessee, I don't read a lot of Southern writing that's very authentic. I thought [Nichols] did an incredible job of telling a story about two young boys in the contemporary South." — Reese Witherspoon

"I've got my own philosophies about life, and about how to go about life and approach it. ...'Just keep living' is a bit of a compass for me...Mud, he's a little more astrologic. He's stepped in piles of crap so many times in his life he now believes it's good luck. ...There have been characters I've met, most of them probably in the rural South, that had little bits of knowledge like Mud, but nobody as fully committed, with a full constitution like Mud. If he ever came to the so-called mainland and got off of the proverbial island and was reined in by civilization, I don't think he'd survive. He's really getting his knowledge from the stars, from the rivers, from Mother Nature." — Matthew McConaughey on the character, Mud, that Nichols wrote with McConaughey in mind.

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