Tuesday, November 15, 2016
I just saw a pretty great movie called 'Moonlight'
Homosexuality, phobia, consequences, regret, identity, confusion, and race are only a small list of the themes this film tackles, as it does so in a way that never gives the audience the impression that the filmmakers have any desire to take the easy way out. It would have been simple in this day and age for a film about a black youth coming to grips with his challenging home life and homosexuality to be relatively easy, and fully capable of tricking audiences into loving in spite of how awful they might be (anyone remember Precious?). In the past several years, there has been a massive influx of films centered around homosexuality and/or race that come across as lazy and uninspired, bent on winning over the affections of audiences through subject matter alone, never fully embracing their themes in a way that feels passionate and genuine (PRECIOUS? ANYONE???). In fact, many films like this wind up doing well during awards season, showing once again just how superficial Hollywood truly is; it's never mattered how well a film is handled, as long as it looks the part. (...yeah, you know where I'm going with this.)
Moonlight looks the part. It feels the part. It gives the audience a window into the life of the everyday struggles of someone handling what life has dealt them, unfair as it may be. Through 3 individual chapters of his life, we see how these challenges affect his past, present, and future. As an audience, we feel nothing but sympathy, and are never given the means to protect him from his fate. Though the ending could be seen as uplifting in a way, it was these final moments that hit me the hardest emotionally. We have grown up with him, seen what has made him into the man he is now, and even though the roughness of his exterior, been given no reason to doubt that he has deserved more from life; and ultimately regret never seeing that fullness of life come to fruition.
As a child, we are taught never to judge a book by its cover. This lesson is used to reflect not only the varieties of entertainment we ingest, but also the people we come in contact with. What on the surface may appear to be rough, ugly, or uninviting may deep down be a gem just waiting to be discovered. Luckily, Moonlight has been discovered and will undoubtedly be remembered for years to come, generating fans from even the most unlikely of places -- the only people I saw in the theater apart from my girlfriend and I were old white people. But somehow I doubt anyone looking at a person resembling Little/Chiron/Black on the street will see him as anything but the character we have built around that image. So, in the very least, Moonlight may give more people a reason to think twice.
And think twice, I have. Originally, I intend to give this film an 8/10 (I've been purposely more stingy with ratings since I retooled my system), but now I feel it deserves a solid 9. Would I recommend this film to anyone? Sadly, I think not. Much like showing The Godfather to fans of only Marvel movies, that particular audience just hasn't quite gotten around yet. This is a slow, deliberate story that doesn't offer audiences ceaseless thrills. It ends with a whimper, not a bang; and in doing so solidifies it's position as one of the most emotional, powerful, and fully realized character studies in recent memory. But some people just prefer explosions.