Analysis

The Mule

A tale of one man's life. Not a story.

A Clint Eastwood film about Clint Eastwood.

While it’s both exciting and sad to match the events on-screen with Eastwood’s personal and professional life, the failure to evoke a compelling Narrative Argument turns the experience into a simple guessing game:

  • Did Eastwood win an award like god character did in 2005? (He did—an Oscar for Million Dollar Baby)
  • Are his films “flowers”—beautiful and temporary in nature? (They are)
  • Which studio executive was Andy Garcia’s Character supposed to represent? 😲

The answers to these questions are nothing more than the substance of an autobiographical analogy. Facts to impress our friends.

Unfortunately, for the filmmakers behind The Mule, no one plays Trivial Pursuit anymore.

The reason for movies

Audiences go to theaters to find something they can’t readily achieve in day-to-day life: meaning.

That meaning is acquired by experiencing a complete argument the way it is experienced within the mind. Characters, plot, theme, and genre? Those are simple stand-ins for what goes on in our own psyche.

A simple way to portray the mind's problem-solving process is to ensure that a film accounts for all points-of-view. Conflict is measured by perspective; one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom-fighter.

The four perspectives are:

  • I have a problem
  • They have a problem
  • You have a problem
  • We have a problem

And these four perspectives find a correlation in a complete story:

  • The Main Character Throughline (I)
  • The Overall Story Throughline (They)
  • The Influence Character Throughline (You)
  • The Relationship Story Throughline (We)

The Mule accounts for the first two to a certain degree—the last two are entirely missing.

That’s why it’s hard not to laugh towards the tail end of the penultimate arraignment scene—it doesn’t add up to anything.

There were indications of a potential Influence Character with Eastwood's Mexican cartel handler. But the development of that meaningful Relationship—a key to balancing out the logistics of the plot—floundered. Even worse, the relationship mysteriously disappeared with no resolution at all.

The Mule is what it is—a swan song for a well-worn and challenging life.

A tale to hear.

And ultimately, be forgotten.