“Chasing Mavericks” Review

Chasing Mavericks by directors Michael Apted and Curtis Hanson was released Oct. 26. The sports drama is based on a true story set in 1994 about Jay Moriarty, a fifteen-year-old boy who seeks the help of local surfing legend, Frosty Hesson, after discovering the mythic Maverick surf break off the California coast. The film features Gerard Butler as Frosty, a carpenter, father and surfer who has learned to ride the Mavericks, and Johnny Weston as Jay. Together, Jay and Frosty build a friendship that not only prepares Jay to surf the monstrous waves but also rescues them from the mounting struggles in their lives.

Raised by a single mother in Santa Cruz and oftentimes looking after himself, Jay turns to Frosty who saved him from drowning when he was eight-years-old. He immediately becomes thrilled with the sport of surfing. With Jay’s determined character against the reality of a neglecting parent, it is effortless to sympathize for the small boy who soon grows into a handsome teenager. Jay attends high school, works at a pizza shop, and still finds time to surf. With a natural talent and an obsession for surfing, it is not long before Jay witnesses Frosty surfing the Mavericks—thirty foot waves some miles from Santa Cruz. Frosty is reluctant to help, but does recognize the same passion for surfing that he himself has. He is persuaded by his wife to train the boy in the twelve week window that the swells are still present. And so the rigorous training begins.

Over the course of the film there are a plethora of impressive ocean scenes. Exquisite shots of surfing, white foam bursting from crashing waves and underwater shots of the murky blue reef expose the beauty and ferocity of nature. Scenes with the Maverick were especially awe-inspiring as experienced surfers show up as small dots against its thirty foot crest. These scenes, too, were paralleled by the complex life in town that Jay faces among friends, taunting rivals and his childhood sweetheart who ignores him during school. Even without the action scenes, the sheer expanse of water during Jay’s training subtly shows what surfing is to both Jay and Frosty. It’s a way of life.

While the various shots of the ocean were impressive and the story inspiring, the dialogue was occasionally stiff. No particular character stood out, which is disappointing especially in the leading roles. With that said, the film relied primarily on the sincerity and quality of its story. With regards to its progression, the film was satisfying. There were certainly twists and turns in regards to both Frosty’s and Jay’s home lives that forced heavier burdens on their characters. However, in the end, their initial goal in Jay riding the waves is what seems to stabilize the chaos.

“Chasing Mavericks” is appealing in the way that it presents the story of Jay Moriarty on a very sincere level. There is not a focus of girls in bikinis or ridiculous parties that might be expected of a movie featuring a teenager. Rather, it unveils the reality of life with surfing as an escape and solace. By the end of the film, it seems that surfing is something sacred to Jay.

Overall, “Chasing Mavericks” is an inspiring film despite its weak dialogue and mediocre acting. The spectacle of the colossal waves matched with the compelling home lives of both Frosty and Jay was more than enough to grab one’s attention for the duration of two hours. Furthermore, there were no uneven chops in the surfing scenes which is often telling of stunt-doubles. Instead, the special effects were perfectly seamless, which is important in relating the true danger of these waves. These smooth transitions allow the viewer to invest fully in the story. As a result, “Chasing Mavericks” is a successful film not just in displaying the athleticism of surfers on spectacular waves but in relating an inspiring story about the bond between two unlikely heroes.

3.5 Stars

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