Film: Chasing Mavericks
Director: Curtis Hanson Michael Apted
Cast: Jonny Weston, Gerard Butler, Elisabeth Shue, Abigail Spencer
A water-obsessed California youngster Jay Moriarty (Weston) discovers that the holy grail of waves - the Mavericks are real. Unfortunately, Frosty (Butler), one of the few men who can prevent Jay from being crushed to a pancake by them is reluctant to teach him. But, he relents and Jay is pushed to his limits. There is some friction in Jay's private life with his friends and parents but he doesn't get bogged down, and neither will this reviewer bog you down, with their behaviour.
Had this film been made in the 1980s, it would have been a cult film. It has all the tropes: The callow, earnest young protagonist, the reluctant, gruff and scarred mentor (and his unusual methods), sneering bullies, training montages, the beguiling blonde love interest (alas, gone is the era where it would have been cool for the film to have a theme song!). And something larger than all of this: an activity that is treated as more than a physical exertion but something almost spiritual, a recourse from life. The activity may indeed break the hero into a million pieces, but in it, he tests his mettle, discovers himself and brings meaning to his young, troubled life. The closest film that comes to mind is the Karate Kid where, incidentally, Elisabeth Shue playing Jay's laid-off, laid-back mom, played Ralph Macchio's blonde love interest.
Butler isn't the greatest actor out there, but he's adequate for the role and newcomer Weston is suitable as the doe-eyed, wonder-struck protege.
The story isn't very multi-layered and the dramatic strength peters out often. As mentioned, there are efforts made to show how miserable Jay's life is with his father abandoning him, unrequited love and his close friend switching allegiances with the bullies. The writing lacks resonance but its light-weight nature works wonders to its overall watchability by glossing over the downbeats.
With the story frothy enough, the waves is the true star of the film. Kudos to editor John Gilbert (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and cinematographer Bill Pope (The Matrix) fo capitalising on nature's versatile ways. From a tranquil, nurturing zone to a majestically wrathful killing machine, the thrashing waves is what makes this movie.
Chasing Mavericks does everything by the book but sometimes that's not such a bad thing. It espouses what good surf films do, that catching a wave is more of a lifestyle than a sport. Yes, the film doesn't not deliver thrills by the minute but it is not without its nostalgia-inducing charms and overall escapist credentials.
Oh, and its a true story too, if that matters to you.