Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Waves of excitement in Chasing Mavericks

Review by James Colt Harrison 

Chasing Mavericks is the perfect summer movie—except it’s now being released by 20th Century Fox in the Fall. Filmed more than a year ago, it’s now seeing the light of day. It may have been held up because director Curtis Hanson became ill half way through the filming and had to have a heart operation. Director Michael Apted came in to take over. The meshing of the two men’s directing styles and editing by John Gilbert seem to blend seamlessly. 

Surfing and male bonding are the two underlying themes of the film. It couldn’t be more of a male bonding movie than if it had been about Marines and the buddy system. Young 15 year-old Jay (hot newcomer Jonny Weston) is an experienced surfer and is better than all his school friends. But he has a burning desire to bigger and better things on the ocean.  

When Jay hears about some of the biggest waves in the world which are breaking near his Santa Cruz home, he gets all excited and wants to learn to ride those huge, but dangerous waves. He needs a teacher. 

Girard Butler (Frosty) not only lives down the street from Jay, but he’s a grizzled old surfer who has been through the mill and also knows how to tame the giant waves. Jay feels he would be the perfect instructor, but Frosty is angry all the time and doesn’t want to be bothered by the little squirt. 

Not only does Jay need a teacher, but he needs a substitute father. You see, his own dad left him and his mother (Elizabeth Shue) years ago, and Jay desperately needs some strong male influence in his life. He decides that Frosty is going to be that person. 

Because Jay is so endearing and eager, Frosty grudgingly caves in and puts the boy through a grueling series of training rituals to get him ready for the big waves. The two dudes finally bond together because of surfing, and Frosty loves the boy like a son. 

Why anyone would want to risk their lives surfing in what look like 100 foot waves is beyond my comprehension. But surf them they do, and Jay is finally happy as a clam challenging himself and the ocean. It’s   hehis passage into young manhood. 
The surfing scenes are extraordinarily exciting, apparently filmed from a surfboard under the waves by a trained dog... It’s totally awesome, as the kids would say. Kudos to the film editor and the professional surfers who made it all happen. 

The best part of the film is that it is a true story about Jay Moriarty from Half Moon Bay, where the movie was filmed. The cinematography by Bill Pope is stunning and adds tremendously to the excitement and beauty of the best surfing movie in the past forty years. 

Director Curtis Hanson grew up in Los Angeles. When he dropped out of high school, he became a photographer for Cinema magazine. By 1970 he co-wrote the movie The Dunwich HorrorIn 1973 he directed Sweet Kill.  He began making comedies and small dramas. In 1992 he had a surprise smash hit with The Hand That Rocks The CradleBy 1997 he had the biggest hit of his career, the noir L.A. Confidential, which was nominated for 9 Academy Awards ®. Hanson shared the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar® with Brian Helgeland, and Kim Basinger won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar®. Since then, Hanson has made 7 more pictures. 

Johnny Weston, the young star of the film, is actually a surfer himself, having been on the waves for at least ten years. He trained hard and did most of the surfing in the movie. He began his career in TV commercials and began auditioning for films. His first film was a horror picture called John Dies At The End. His favorite actor is Joaquin Phoenix. Since shooting Chasing Mavericks  he has filmed a gritty ghetto film  87 Fleer,  about a kid who rises to power by selling drugs and becoming a miniature Scarface. With his azure blue eyes and curly blonde mop, he’s sure to become a new heart-throb for today’s young audiences.


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