Mississippi Grind (film)

Mississippi Grind (Directed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden)/2015

Mississippi Grind is a film that looks at a chance encounter between two men and how it unfolds as the pair goes on an adventure. Curtis (Ryan Reynolds) is fun, outgoing, handsome and charismatic. Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn) is meek, quiet, suspicious and seems tired. They have one thing in common and that is gambling. However, for Curtis gambling is a means to an end, to live comfortably without having to commit to employment;  he leads a nomadic life between various relationships and locations.

For Gerry, gambling is IT. It has consumed him completely; he has no family or friends although it seems that he used to.  He is paralysed by thoughts of gambling or getting money to gamble. Gerry takes no pleasure in material wealth resulting from gambling nor any other aspects of life.  Ben Mendelsohn does a stirling job of portraying this shameful and miserable (yet vulnerable) character.

Curtis is both shocked and disturbed as he realises the extent to which Gerry is crazed about gambling but by then he has invested too much to simply walk away. The film shows how insidious and destructive gambling addiction can be: we find out, bit by bit, how Gerry has been engulfed by it .  At the same time Curtis is confused at the lack of such focus and determination in his own life.

It is a devastatingly sad situation and the only person that fails to realise that is Gerry. The two are driven by the rush of gambling as well as the excitement of the new relationship, without history, grudge or past debts. As gamblers usually do, Curtis and Gerry get driven by the thought of the final win that will “solve” all of their problems. Whether that actually happens or not is another story.

Mississippi Grind is a film that explores the high of gambling. It is not done in a judgemental way though; rather it seems to want to display all aspects of gambling behaviour via various means and style. For some, it becomes their life - their religion. For others ‘it’s just a job’ as they say.

We're constantly told to have "passion" in life or a "goal", and I was weirdly awe struck about the intensity of fixation in this behavioural addiction of gambling, thinking what achievements could be gained from such tireless drive!  Mississippi Grind walks the fine line in exposing both its force and its demonic aftermath.  It far exceeded my expectations and contrasted with the rather cheesy poster. I'd definitely count it as one of my highlights of this year.

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