Movie Review: 'Chasing Mavericks' (2012)

Surf, sand and the beautiful beaches of California work in unison to produce a sports drama that is charmingly adept at creating heartfelt moments and truly touching sentiments about life. “Chasing Mavericks” is based on the true story of Jay Moriarty (Jonny Weston), who implored his gruff neighbor and surfing guru, Frosty (Gerard Butler) to help train him to surf the world’s biggest waves, the mavericks.

As movies in the sports genre often do, the central focus of this film is self-determination and overcoming obstacles to a physical goal, while utilizing a lot of emotional and mental skills to achieve the challenge ahead. In this respect, “Chasing Mavericks” follows a lot of the same formulas.

Where it diverges is in its unique take on the coach-protégé relationship. Jay, the son of a single mother whose father abandoned him and Frosty; a traveled nomad, settling into parental duties, both need something from each other as people. There is a father/son relationship potential, that both are afraid, to fully acknowledge and as the movie develops, the reasons why become understandable.

Navigating through the rough seas of friendship, mentorship and ultimately what it means to be a father are all eloquently explored. The love and respect that’s cultivated from a teacher, demanding a student challenge themselves, with the faith they can make it happen, makes for strong moments.

A message and sentiment the film presents is the importance of those who see a kid in need and take a proactive step in changing their lives. The plight of youths who have been left devoid of a parental figure as the result of parental abandonment both physical and emotional is a tragedy that can easily slip through the cracks.

Lately, films have gotten away from depicting the inherent good that can come from adult intervention. Just this year, “The Spectacular Now” and “Spring Breakers” let the silent absence of adult involvement speak volumes. Satisfyingly, “Chasing Mavericks” takes a different route.

Jonny Weston gives a pleasantly emotive turn as the fresh faced, Jay. Gerard Butler is heartily indomitable in his role as Frosty. Butler aptly employs his charismatic screen presence, displaying the emotionally restrained instructor and the caring concern of a father figure. It’s an effective reminder of Butler’s machismo and why he shot to prominence after “300”. He has a way of being a tough guy without being a straight up jerk.

Abigail Spencer (“Suits”) is also worthy of note for her portrayal of Frosty’s kindhearted wife, Brenda. Conveying a genuinely nice person sounds like an easy gig. Having seen other actors falter with the task, I can attest; it is a harder undertaking than one might think. Fortunately for Spencer, it is one she achieves successfully.

While, there are some missteps including several unexplained character decisions and dialogue that isn't given the proper closure. It is an otherwise, firm venture that seizes on crucial emotional terrain. Co-directed by Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted, Hanson ("In Her Shoes") instills the film with his trademark rendering of the human spirit.

The cinematography of the idyllic ocean view is captured brilliantly by cinematographers, Oliver Euclid and Bill Pope, who bring the vivid beauty of the California coast into full focus.

“Chasing Mavericks” is entertaining and it packs an emotional punch that is unexpected having lulled the audience into a seemingly secure state of being. You don’t realize how firmly it has you in its grasp until, the crest of the film hits. In this sense, “Mavericks” catches its biggest wave by capturing the nature of life. Rating: 7.7/10

1 comment

  1. Agree 100%. This movie did not get the acclaim it deserved. Some critics are just jerks and only want the artsy movies because they think it elevates them to a higher plateau. Sometimes we just want to be entertained with a passion movie. Something we can relate to in our own lives and inspire us to reach higher.

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