Saturday, 18 February 2017
111 Minutes. Starring: Trevante Rhodes, Andre Holland, Naomie Harris, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Jharrel Jerome, Jaden Piner, Janelle Monae & Marhershala Ali. Director: Barry Jenkins.
Growing up in a 1980's Miami riddled with vice makes for one hell of a heated, coming of age story. But by 'Moonlight' it will be clear to see in three traditionally classic cinematic acts (i. Little. ii. Chiron. iii. Black), that this blisteringly beautiful movie is 'Boyhood' all manned up in the hood. A story told over more than 12 years, this is accomplished art for the picture houses. Ali may be a straight K.O. for Oscars title this go round, but it's time to snap this Academy Award in three like Adele's Grammy for Beyonce. As Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes are the new acting big-three that play our central character from a shy, wounded boy to a sculpted soldier of a man. All tender to the touch of a movie set to move the mainstream. Aching in its vivid visuals (classic cinematography captured by James Laxton's lasting camerawork) and violin haunting, orchestral scoring (that Nicholas Britell haunts amongst hip-hop horns for a undercurrent of a score that gets under your skin more than 'Jackie'), 'Moonlight' mesmerizes your every sense. Not ignoring your one of being. Nuanced and note perfect as it rarely relents, this movie doesn't have to sell you like moonshine, because by midnight you'll see the light. Which hopefully everyone else will, come that one night in February. The evening in Hollywood's old Walk of Fame that seems to be dancing away with 'La La Land' and the somber symphony of 'Manchester By The Sea'. That is unless those 'Hidden Figures' and people behind the 'Fences' Broadway adaptation have anything to say. Speaking of plays this feature based on Terell Alvin McCraney's poignant play 'In The Moonlight Black Boys Turn Blue' is a sleeper awoken like the mutli-part, uncaged 'Lion' and the interacial 'Loving' that subtely shows true love knows no creed and orientation here. And visionary Barry Jenkins' visceral first film in almost a decade since 'Medicine For Melancholy' is purely poetic, powerful, but yet poised. All as an independent picture willing to stand up for itself, all on it's own two, no fronts. Now if you can't tell the real from the fake then who is you? Because this is a masterpiece.
Drugs and bullying may posion the veins of this narrative thread but it's necessary in showing the reality of how raw an upbringing lies between the off-white sand and the unforgiving Florida sun. And this movie that shows a young African-American man coming to terms with his sexuality and his place in the world is anything but the criminally cliched dramas swimming in stereotypes that clutter our culture. This is a genuinely affecting movie that shows how blind love really is, in all but good ways. But it's about all sorts of partnerships, from friendship to family. But the three tier team-up of actors that play Chiron from 'Little' to 'Black' really are revolutionary. How they don't even have a nomination from Globe to Oscar and all the Baftas inbetween is real criminality. Because they should all at least share an Oscar moment holding the trophy as they are all touching gold here. They all deserve their due, just like the young child star to be Sunny Pawar is just as much a 'Lion' and Best Actor as Dev Patel who has his nomination alone. Alex Hibbert who plays the youngest of our leads is extraordinary as a young boy falling for a young friend in the confident Jaden Piner. Saying little, but showing larger than life truth through the eyes of his soul. Even with a dome bowed in shimmering shyness this child actor can hold his head high for decades to come an everlong star is born into the light of the moon. Just like Ashton Sanders who tweens the teenage years with grown love interest Jharrel Jerome. Ten times as confident, character and actor. Sanders still reverberates the same soulfulness through piercing pupils that you can see once your fingers tip his head up. But growing to a gawky, small forward height this slender giant is finding it even harder to hide now. Especially with bullies making his life ignorantly intolerable with cruel, savage, physical and emotional bullying that scales between passive and passed on to the next intimidated ally and outwardly aggressive. All for nothing, until the tipping point is brutually broken right over our heads. Then a testament terrific former track and field athlete Trevante Rhodes goes the distance and changes the setting to the gold grills and American muscle drop top traps of Atlanta and the physicality of our now hench, but still meekly hunched character. All whilst keeping the white of his eyes of soul sorrow intact showing that all these defining individuals are one and the same man of great character...and to think the actors didn't even meet before this film wrapped, let alone get to know each other. The same kid might have done it over a decade and change filmtime for Richard Linklater's 'Boyhood' as well, but these three young king linking up create an unbreakable bond that resonates with us, the audience.
Rhodes road warrior bond with brother and lover Andre Holland stays with us even more than the chain connection between the same three actors as the star of 'Selma', 42' and 'The Knick' plays the last part of Chiron's love interest perfectly to a tee served at his classic, atmospheric diner stop. Latching on to Laxton's personal, face to the audience capturing camera like no other, smoking and billowing with smouldering honesty and brooding broken out charisma. Honestly the only one who looks realer in the to-screen face of things is great Brit Naomie Harris, who greys and thins through all the three ageing acts. Showing us an absent mother who should have neglected the rocks instead of the diamonds and pearls she denied her son. Harris' performance bleeds wisdom of decades and to think she did all this in less than a week as she had three day to wrap up three acts, before bringing Miss Moneypenny back to the 'Spectre' of James Bond's latest 007 spectacle. Maverick musician Janelle Monae also exhibits her acting chops as 'The ArchAndroid' futurist shows she can fashion and take it back to the traditions of top notch acting. With this also alongside her 'Hidden Figure' three-way lead this week...that belongs to her. Give Janelle at least one nomination, like her 'Hidden' co-star and on-screen beau Marhershala Ali here. An Oscar shoe-in even on a Hopkins' Lecter 'Lambs' worth of screen time. Filming this between his Emmy Award winning, small-screen time on Kevin Spacey's presidential 'House Of Cards' team and the mobile Marvel one, screen scene-stealing on Netflix's 'Luke Cage' as the villanious Cottonmouth. Here he plays a drug dealer with a heart of Academy gold. One iconic scene were he teaches our young boy how to swim in the Atlantic is beautiful and more akin to a baptism, it's such a religious experience like his by the palms vigil. The man with the unmistakable, lovable laugh thay cackled so callously through Cage is more favourably received here. As this genuine gentleman with a criminal career is performed to perfection by an actor whose part is worth the weight of what lines the teeth of the bottom of his mouth. Coming just months after the former 'Place Beyond The Pines' and 'Hunger Games' breakout star tried to find Oscars gold with McConaughey in the 'Free State Of Jones'. Ali's inspiration like everything else here makes this jaw dropping, leaving every opponent with a heart of glass. That's how clear this ocean deep picture portrait is in an industry of relative transparency. Perhaps now the so white Oscars will finally see the light too. Because 'Moonlight's gleaming glow touches everyone. No matter how you look, or who you love. And that's how it should be, no matter who tries to change that and what their ignorance does in turn. Real power is turning the other cheek to the good side. And this one is the best look. Surprised? Enlightened? Well...what did you expect? TIM DAVID HARVEY.
See This If You Liked: 'Fences', 'Lion', 'Boyhood'.