There is nothing fancy about Bloomin Mud Shuffle, the latest from writer/director Frank V. Ross. No high concept or high drama; there is no sensationalizing the alcoholism and depression that is set in at the core of the narrative’s fabric. It is stripped of adornments and embellishments, stripped down into glimpses of a life not overtly suffering from these issues but more so continuing in spite of these issues. It is not flashy because there is no reason for Ross to employ flash considering the way in which he is able to quietly mine genuine emotion from day-to-day minutiae of life.
Lonnie, the man at the center of Bloomin Mud Shuffle, is a divided man existing in seemingly equal measures of sober and inebriated. His daylight hours spent painting interior walls with his longtime friend, Chuck (or Alex Karpovsky as Alex Karpovsky), while shooting the shit about trivial topics. The nighttime is a steady parade of commingling spirits and ice traveling via tumbler to the face of our Lonnie. Both versions are portrayed by James Ransone, although with varied results with his sober portrayal reaching a certain level of truth while his drunken turn feels a bit forced and over exaggerated.
Lonnie is not yet dealing with his issues of alcoholism and depression but rather slowly acknowledging their existence, but in the meantime, a burgeoning relationship with a female co-worker, Monica (Alexia Rasmussen), provides a pleasant distraction to that potentially difficult realization. That is until the developments in that relationship end up accelerating the inevitability of Lonnie having to come to terms with the choices he is making in life. Again, Ross refrains from pushing these issues into the limelight, up-front and center, instead of letting them reside alongside the other narrative components, progressing naturally and organically.
The most interesting aspect of Ross’s film would be the way in which he chooses to present the passage of time. Instead of clearly defined beginnings and endings to the days, Ross lets the day drift into one another reminiscent of how repetitive days of menial labor tend to bleed together after a while. It could also speak to the hazy recollection of our main character due to his penchant for imbibing excessively. Either way, it creates a subtle struggle, at times, in determining where and when Lonnie and Monica are in their relationship. One moment they seem to be dancing around the idea flirtatiously and, in the next scene, they seem to be months deep in romance.
Ross’s elliptical approach does well in mirroring the slight confusion and/or frustration that Lonnie is feeling with regards to his relationship with Monica. Their romance is hot and cold; it seems to be going somewhere in one instance and in the next it is stalled or seemingly non-existent without much explanation except for Monica’s initial reluctance towards something serious.
At the end of the film, its message becomes a bit too blunt and straightforward considering the overall natural feel of everything that transpires before it – between Ransone and Karpovsky’s workplace bantering and the romantic entanglement of Lonnie and Monica – it is a bit out-of-place in its sudden shifting of gears to directly establishing a character’s mindset and, subsequently, doling out the appropriate advice. Thus becoming one of those lesson-learning films although Ross’s sincerity helps to alleviate much of that syrupy distribution at the end. Overall, Bloomin Mud Shuffle has a meaningful message; one that attempts to highlight the importance of living one’s life for others instead of living one for ourselves as we search for comfort. And, while our definitions of comfort may differ the majority of us are searching for that comfort all the same.