Life is what we make of it in Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck's Mississippi Grind, an assertion of independence, albeit both engendered and restricted by what society makes of our lives. It can be fantastical and fantastic, if will and luck should converge, and the path toward self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction is taken in earnest. The path is the point, or 'the journey is the destination', but since this movie must have a definite destination, it at least makes good on its journey. That destination is a contrivance so almighty it justifies itself - it's so colossal compared to what has come before that it practically becomes this movie, rather than overwhelming it. It can't quite justify the filmmakers' reliance on contrivance through Mississippi Grind as a whole - this detail sits at odds with the loose, conversational tone that Boden and Fleck establish with considerable success, thus the whole enterprise lacks cohesion and often a sense of purpose. Their character-focused approach is sound, however, since their ear for dialogue is particularly astute; canny casting is the final, crucial piece to this puzzle. Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds are appropriately awkward, figures caught between forced confidence and resigned hopelessness, engaging in heartfelt yet insincere banter and forming a tenuous relationship built on uncertain terms. Their performances, as well as those of the rest of the cast, are spot-on. They forge a genuine belief in their characters, one which completes the filmmakers' vision of their lives. These sad spawns of society make what they can of those lives, and make Mississippi Grind a better movie for it.