Catching a Curl
★ ★ ★ out of 5 buckets | DVD
Rated: PG Thematic elements and some perilous action
Release Date: October 26, 2012
Runtime: 1 hour 32 minutes
Director: Michael Apted, Curtis Hanson
Writers: Kario Salem, Jim Meenaghan, Brandon Hooper
Cast: Gerard Butler, Elisabeth Shue, Abigail Spencer, Leven Rambin, Scott Eastwood, Devin Crittenden, Jonny Weston
SYNOPSIS: As a boy, Jay Moriarty is saved from the surf by neighbor surfer Frosty Hesson - and falls in love with the water and surfing. Seven years later, teenage Jay discovers that a mythic monster wave called a 'maverick' exists and enlists Frosty's help to conquer it.
REVIEW: Director Michael Apted (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) and Curtis Hanson (8 Mile) team up to bring from the depth a film based on the true story of young California surfer Jay Moriarty. With a screenplay by Kario Salem (The Score) from a story by Brandon Cooper and Jim Meenaghan, Apted and Hanson follow a young man with deep rooted issues chasing a wave that doesn't exist.
As a small boy, Jay Moriarty (Cooper Timberline) loved to stare at the pacific waves off the coast of Santa Cruz. He loved to count the swells between waves to understand that it affected the height and power of each break. One day, he fell into the water near some outcroppings and almost drown. But at the last moment, surfer and neighbor Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler, Law Abiding Citizen) scoops him out from the crashing surf and drives him and his friend Kim (Harley Graham) back home, chastising young Jay of the dangers he put himself into. But Jay was not to be deterred. He cobbles a surf board together with duct tape and borrowed fins, and with the help of a sympathetic surfer Blond, to learn how to master the surf. As a young man with an overworked mother and never there father, Jay (John Wesson, John Dies at the End) looked to the curling waves for comfort, relief, and excitement. One early foggy morning, when Frosty sets out for a surf session, Jay secretly hitches a ride to watch Frosty and three other avid surfers catch twenty to thirty foot waves in a secluded location. Seeing these superior waves as a challenge to be conquered, Jay enlists the reluctant Frosty to teach him how to tackle these 'maverick' waves. Frosty does set out to train the young man, but Jay must contend with more than just Frosty's strict rules and regiment. He also has to deal with a mother finding solice in the bottom of a bottle, a best friend Blond (Devin Crittenden, Disaster Movie) trading solidarity for peer pressured drugs, the girl Kim (Leven Rambin, The Hunger Games) who who he has loved since he was a child, and a troubled teem Sonny (Taylor Handley, Battle: Los Angeles) who aggressively looks down and picks at everything Jay does. Does Jay have what it takes to overcome at all of the obstacles set before him in life and survive one of the most brutal, gnarly curls over to be seen?
Chasing Mavericks is based on the incredible life and achievements of a young man, Jay Moriarty, whose obsession with water and waves served as a metaphor for how he lived his life. Driven to overcome fear, and put his life in harm's way, the real Jay Moriarty always felt that his life was destined and that he was never long for this earth. Was he chasing an intangible something to fill the hole in his life left by a father who abandoned him with only an unopened sealed letter? Or was he just a young man with a reckless streak? Or was he something in between?
Similar to the fiction of The Karate Kid and Point Break, Chasing Mavericks is an amalgam of the two. Frosty is the zen master who reluctantly takes the troubled, reckless Jay under his wing to train him, not to succeed but to survive. Mr Miyagi taught Daniel to 'Wax On, Wax Off'. Frosty teaches Jay to 'Paddle, Paddle, Paddle'. Both The Karate Kid and Chasing Mavericks have a popular blonde menace set in the protagonist's way, trying to knock him down a peg. But where Daniel needed the karate to stand up to his bully, Jay had all the self-confidence he needed and 'devil may care' attitude to deal with the likes of Sonny. What both lacked was the ability to successfully tackle their climatic events without an experienced hand. And like Point Break, Chasing Mavericks deals with individuals always looking for the next rush or next thrill. Chasing Mavericks focuses on the one big wave, while Point Break dealt with the like of surfing, skydiving, and, yes, bank robberies.
Compared to fictitious works, Chasing Mavericks may seem a little tame. There is plenty going on -, a mother and son dynamic where Jay has taken on the role of caretaker for his mother Christy (Elizabeth Shue, Hope Springs), a strained relationship between Jay and his childhood friend Blonde, a growing, but elusive romance between Jay and Kim, and a love/hate relationship between father figure Frosty and the young apprentice Jay. Some will miss the heightened angst that they have come to expect for their movie going experience. But what Chasing Mavericks misses in over the top drama, it makes up with heart and a monster wave.
Butler's reluctant father figure Frosty wants Wesson's Jay to be a better man, but he unsure how to go about taking in someone not his own. Not only that, Frosty has to contend with his own streak of recklessness that his own wife Brenda (Abigail Spencer, This Means War) compares to how the young Jay acts. Both Frosty and Jay may be kindred spirits and may be chasing waves, but they still look after those they loves. But that does not stop them from training and following a el Nino created wave that would drive away all most the most fool hearty or experienced. The 'maverick' that Jay chases is a monster - and is a character all its own.
The climatic last act includes the elusive wave that Jay has trained for. Watching surfers launch from boats instead of treading out to beyond the underwater plateaus of the coastline serves as testament to the endurance required to tackle this monster. When the series of mavericks come to shore, and literally cause near-hit collisions between boats, it seems like a reflection of Clooney's Perfect Storm. The Mavericks are massive and are shot with cinematic excellence. The fact that anyone can ride, let alone survive, one of these bucking curls. The intensity and majesty of these forces of nature made manifest are enough to make the whole film worthwhile.
Chasing Mavericks is a subtle tale of man versus man, man versus nature, and man versus himself. Some of the surfers play themselves as homage to Jay Moriarty, proving that this is a tale close to their hearts and a tale worth telling.
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