Starring Gerard Butler, Jonny Weston, Elizabeth Shue,
Perhaps we will have a surfing film every year now. I expect due to the success of Soul Surfer, we have, as a result, Chasing Mavericks. Both films have a PG rating; however, this film feels much darker and more cinematic. Also based on a true story, Chasing Mavericks has a surprising cast, with newcomer Weston really planting his feet in the ground with a rousing and memorable performance that should do for him what Soul Surfer did for Annasofia Robb. When I first saw the poster for this, Butler (Machine Gun Preacher, The Bounty Hunter) didn’t strike me as the surfer type, but the way he plays this role impressed me and I think this is certainly one of his better performances, and a step in the right direction for his career. Shue (Hope Springs, House at the End of the Street) continues her re-birth to cinema in 2012, this being her third supporting role.
An 8-year old, Jay Moriarty, is saved by local Santa Cruz surfer Frosty Hesson (Butler) as he was swept into the sea by a wave. “Small world”, Frosty says as he drops the impressionable boy off at his house, across the street from his own. Seven years later Jay (Weston) is now a teen surfing pro and looks up to Frosty for advice. Through the suggestion of his wife, Frosty takes Jay under his wing and teaches him how to be one of the “mavericks”, those who surf the dangerous waves that would crush average surfers. Fierce and sometimes dangerous training still isn’t enough to survive the 30 foot waves that occur from El Nino off the rock coast line, Frosty wants him mentally ready.
Hanson, who also knows a thing or two about filming on water after The River Wild, also delivers a stunning look to the film that is wholesomely representative of that part of California.
While the surfing theme is always powerfully used in film for it’s dedication and danger, like most films dealing with a sport, the true meaning behind Surfing Mavericks isn’t whether Jay catches the big wave or not. “Some sons are born to you, some just happen to you,” Frosty’s wife (Abigail Spencer) says. This film is really about a man who doesn’t believe he can be a father, and a boy in search of a father figure. Of course, as in most PG rated movies (in this case by Walden Media), there is a good bit of sappy dialogue and predicable resolutions. Yet those scenes are nearly forgiven for the strong ones, including surprising character conclusions and a pretty powerful scene between Jay and his mother.
I can’t think of another surf film where the story relies so heavily on the danger of surfing and risks it takes to master such a wave. The script’s theme of fear being a separate entity of panic is an interesting concept, and one the characters reinforce throughout. Another standout role in the film comes from Spencer, who plays the wife of Hesson. Directors Curtis Hanson (8 Mile, LA Confidential) and Peter Apted (The Chronicles of Narnia, Nell), both highly experienced and successful directors, raise the quality level of this film beyond other sports films. Hanson, who also knows a thing or two about filming on water after The River Wild, also delivers a stunning look to the film that is wholesomely representative of that part of California.
Tingling, emotional and memorable.