Moonlight


Director: Barry Jenkins.
Screenplay: Barry Jenkins.
Starring: Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, Alex R. Hibbert, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monáe, André Holland, Jharrel Jerome, Jaden Piner, Duan Sanderson, Shariff Earp.

“At some point, you gotta decide for yourself who you’re going to be. Can’t let nobody make that decision for you”

Backed by Brad Pitt and his production company Plan B, Moonlight done the festival circuit before becoming a darling with the critics. It has since received 8 Oscar nominations and it’s probably fair to say that it has become the biggest underdog success story of the year. As impressive as these accolades are, though, there’s still an overhanging question… Is it actually any good?

Plot: A story told in three defining chapters on the life of a young man named Chiron. From a young boy, (played by Alex R. Hibbert) he questions who he really is before we follow him through high-school (played by Ashton Sanders) and his relationships with his peers and exploration with connections. We then settle on Chiron as an adult (played by Trevante Rhodes) and him coming to terms with his identity.

I have to admit that I really wasn’t drawn to Moonlight when I first heard about it. It might have been a film that I would’ve eventually given a chance. However, call me a victim of hype if you like, but once the reviews started pouring in and the Oscar nominations were announced, I knew I couldn’t drag my heels any longer and had to give it a look sooner than I intended.

Just so we’re clear from offset here; I got the message of Moonlight. I got what it was trying to say. I was even impressed with its artistic approach and it’s seamless merging of three narratives. It’s a story about connection, sexuality and masculinity. It’s a universal tale about self-discovery. I didn’t misunderstand it. What I don’t understand is the praise that’s been lavished upon it. This is, unequivocally, one of the most overrated films in quite some time.

I’ll give director Barry Jenkins his due, his deliberate approach to the material is impressive as it verges on european art-house. Some of his and cinematographer James Laxton’s eye for a shot can be striking but, in the end, the film meanders and finds it very difficult to steer clear of contrivance. Frankly, the film takes far too long to say anything. Tedium sets in very quickly and by the time the film reaches its final third, it dawns on you that all you’re really getting from this is pretentious twaddle.

It talks a lot, but (like Chiron himself) says very little. It has been said that “humility is no substitute for a good personality” and this is the case with our lead character. He’s very difficult to identify with and any personality he might have must have been kept in his underpants as it certainly wasn’t anywhere to be seen onscreen.

What Ang Lee done for cowboys in 2005’s Brokeback Mountain, Barry Jenkins does for drug trapping homies in Moonlight. It sheds its light on the plight of gay men who struggle with their sexuality and identity – especially when living in a masculine environment. It’s an important topic which, rightly, deserves more attention but Lee’s film was overrated then and Jenkins’ film is overrated now. When approaching this particular type of material, I would highly recommend Tom Ford’s sublime A Single Man instead; a film that was genuinely artistic and heartfelt, yet was sorely overlooked by far too many.

8 Oscar nominations? Bitches be trippin’! This is not that kind of caliber and it stinks to me that the academy are trying their best to look politically correct after the lack of black representation in the nominations last year. Giving sympathy votes, however, doesn’t right that wrong.

Mark Walker

Trivia: The inspiration for the narrative structure of the film came from Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s film Three Times (2005).

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40 Responses to “Moonlight”

  1. This is the first review I’ve read for Moonlight that hasn’t all-out praised it. I haven’t been able to catch the movie yet, but I do think the subject matter about race and sexuality is compelling at a time when Donald Trump is now our president.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I tried with this one, man. I really did. I’m not taking away from the subject matter. It’s definitely something worth approaching but I found its delivery to be very tedious. To be fair, I ran with it in the beginning but it got soooo laborious that my opinion plummeted as time went on.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You must look for something very different in movies than I do? I don’t mean to be an asshole, but how can anyone who loves movies not love this movie? It’s everything a movie should be. To me! It has a perfect score, it has perfect casting. Amazing acting! Directing where every little detail is paid attention to. He paid attention to how his actors would sweat!
        How is it laborious? You have to watch the people on screen have emotions? Oh the labor! You have to sit through uncomfortable silences… But this is life.
        I don’t even think it’s about the subject matter to me. Sure it’s timely and important, but I love it because it uses the medium of film to its full potential. It tells a story with images, it tells it with actors eyes, it tells it with music.

        Like

      • I don’t think being a lover of movies necessarily means you have to love this film. I don’t mean to be asshole either but this is a very strange and obtuse comment when all art forms should be viewed either subjectively or objectively.

        Subjectively, this film was very important but objectively it was a complete contradiction. I have no issue with the acting, the directing or the cinematography but I have issues with how it played out. Excuse my language, but it was FUCKING BORING. It’s central message was important but it was wasted. Wasted with a self-conscious approach. It tried too hard to be deep and as much as Barry Jenkins’ direction was good, he ain’t no Terrence Malick. Malick is a director that could have really given this material a philosophical substance but Jenkins bluffed it.

        This is hugely overrated and a very, very dull attempt at profundity. But, hey! Maybe I just don’t love movies enough to know when I’ve been rumbled.

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      • And thank god he ain’t Terrence Malick! There is nothing philosophical here. That’s the point. No need to evoke the universe or creation, to make a meaningful movie. The ability to make it be about small characters in everyday situations, and be able to speak to wide audience, very removed from his characters’ experiences, that’s where the magic is for me. The ability to have it be told through looks, through movement, through editing
        No over-the-top pseudointellectual metaphors needed. Just raw and real. It’s not pretending to be anything bigger than it is. It’s a small, slow film.

        I don’t know, it spoke to me, maybe it didn’t to you. But that was a real question, what DO you look for in a film? What makes it good if this doesn’t?

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      • Well, personally, I find Malick’s “pseudointellectual” approach to contain a lot of substance. He addresses bigger ideas and ponders greatly on the nature of existence. Moonlight doesn’t do that. You can focus on everyday situations and characters expressions all you want, but if there’s inherently a lack of depth the there is no depth to your pondering – no matter how you visually express it. Moonlight is all pondering with nothing underneath. Half way trough the second act, I knew where it was going and it still chose to stick to the same path without offering anything other than ponderous pomposity. It’s one of the most overrated films in years. In fact, I’m actually surprised I didn’t like it. I normally love films that take this approach but this had nothing other than solid performances that (slightly) elevated it’s threadbare material.

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      • Yeah, why not? More dinosaurs. If anything, Malick got people thinking or at least wondering with the dinosaurs.

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  2. Man I have tried sifting through my thoughts on this movie to see where I come down on it. And while I like it a tad better than you I’m right there with you – I simply don’t get the massive love for it. Is it because it’s striking just the right chords for people at the moment? I too think it meanders and at times seems in desperate need of energy. Ali was really good and I felt the movie suffered when he disappeared (which SPOILER…is early). That’s when I felt it began hitting several familiar notes. I do admire several things about it, but I certainly don’t see it as an awards quality movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, brother. I thought I was alone on this. It does tackle an important subject for our times but, like you say, there’s no energy to it. It meanders and although I can accept this from a film, I also expect some substance to go alongside it. This didn’t really have it for me.

      The performances were good and it was well shot but it thought it was deeper than it actually was. A bit of a slog. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This was better than La La Land but in general from what I’ve seen apart from Hell or High Water and Hidden Figures everything is quite mediocre or just forgettable

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve kinda been feeling the same. Captain Fantastic and I, Daniel Blake were good and I was impressed with Trainspotting 2. But from the so-called big hitters and Oscar nominated ones; it’s Hell or High Water for me too. I also really liked Manchester By the Sea, though.

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  4. Mark I don’t necessarily agree with everything you said but I enjoy you articulating your point. I went into the film excited by the praise that it had been given. I wondered afterwards if I had been too tired to appreciate it properly. I dig a lot of things about it but I would argue the first third moves better and holds more attention then the rest of the film and some of these techniques can be overindulged. For that I enjoyed your review for making me consider some of my suspicions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Lloyd. I had to consider my suspicions as well and that’s, ultimately, which led me to disappointment. There were definitely some positives; the performances were good and it was well shot but the journey itself meandered for me and I don’t find the payoff to be as profound as it believed itself to be. I do agree agree that the first third is the strongest segment but after that I got bored with it. I just didn’t find it to be the “masterpiece” that many have claimed.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s a shame when the hype machine can work against a film. I tend to see the film with my own eyes to pass judgement.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well, A Single Man did garner Firth an Oscar. We’re obviously in different places when it comes to this film. I hear what you’re saying but I think you’re wrong on this occasion. It’s all a matter of perspective I guess! We’ll be on the same page again next time!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. We definitely have conflicting opinions on this one – I thought it was fantastic and have no problem with the fact it has received lots of nominations, though ultimately I don’t really care what or who wins what – it’s just one big circle jerk and the longer I’ve been blogging and paying attention the more I’ve realised it’s not for me. Anyway! Sorry man, I just thought this was top draw – superb acting, a compelling and different story and with non cliche characters to boot; I mean when do we ever see films about black men who are drug dealers where the men are defined by their tenderness, or their love for others, or are afraid? And not a single bullet fired to boot; it felt like a fresh perspective to me, with a distinctive voice behind it. Was also into the look of the film, the soundtrack, the whole package. Our cars are parked in different garages my friend!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Can’t agree all the time, man. But we must on this. I get you on the performances and the fresh perspective. I dug that. I even liked it’s message but I couldn’t get over how laborious and drawn out it was. I normally don’t mind a film that takes its time but there was no delivery here that I didn’t twig early on. It felt like a whole bunch of artsy hokum that thought it was deeper than it actually was. Like I say, the message is good (and important) but the delivery was very frustrating for me. Dull as dishwater, man.

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  8. It is always interesting reading a review that isn’t as enthused about an It-movie of the moment, because Moonlight is definitely becoming that. I’m sort of close to resenting it for that but I did love the film. I see what you’re saying here though, because I too thought the movie moved a bit slow in places.

    In fact when I left the theater I distinctly remembering pausing and having a brief “that was it?” kind of . . . moment of panic almost, but then later things started to settle in on me more and I know for me in particular, I was rocked by Naomie Harris’ performance.

    (Secret between friends, I will never write a review for Fight Club because people do not want to hear what I have to say about it. 😉 😀 )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I didn’t like this, man. I think it’s waaaay overhyped. I could appreciate the performances and the cinematography but the story was a real drag. I’m struggling to see why people people are so enthused. Call me a conspiracy theorist but I reckon people are blowing smoke up it’s arse cause it’s politically correct to do so.
      The film was real slog and the feeling of “that was it?” hit me midway through the second act. I knew it wasn’t going anywhere from there. And it didn’t.

      Fuck political correctness, man! A shit film is a shit film. 😉

      Now I’m eager to hear about Fight Club! 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      • Well I admit to enjoying it and I can’t really badmouth it too much but I think it’s one of the most overrated movies ever. I watched it twice and was impressed but I don’t think it’s the best thing Fincher has ever done. The twist in Gone Girl surprised me more than the one in Fight Club.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Fair enough, man! To each their own. Personally I like the anti-establishment vibe of Fight Club. It appealed to the anarchist in me. That, and Pitt and Norton are just a great pairing. My only criticism is Helena Bonham Carter. I fucking hate that actress!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Finally some one seems to be on the same page as me!

    “Frankly, the film takes far too long to say anything”

    Yes! I was expecting something good, and while it was moving and touching and everything you outlined… so are a shit-load of other films!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, sir. There does seem like a handful of us that seen through this film. The masses have lapped it up but I really struggle to see why, man. I think they’ve been duped.

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      • Political correctness man. Plain and simple.

        I laughed so hard when I heard it won the Oscar, I just thought ‘well of course it did!!’ It ticked all the right boxes. That’s what this film does best. Apart from looking pretty.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It fucking reeks of PC. There was no way the critics or academy we’re going to say anything bad about this for fear of backlash. It’s one of the most overrated best picture winners in years. I don’t know why I always fall for the Oscars because they’re becoming more and more ridiculous.

        By the way, I did read your Moonlight review but I was operating in a shitty internet connection and it wouldn’t post my comment but we definitely do see eye-to-eye on a lot of it.

        Like

      • Yep, the smell is overwhelming and I’d bet that many people are hesitant to say so. Like you said, fear of backlash, especially after last year’s awards.

        So La La Land got, what, 6 awards but not best picture, and the only other major award Moonlight won was Ali for a -fifteen minute- supporting role? Right…

        The first thing I thought when I went to watch the Oscar fuck-up after my dad told me about it was…. SET UP!!! 😛

        Ever since I started caring about films enough to write about them, I’ve always considered the awards a joke. Just a big popularity contest/circle-jerk. Kubrick didn’t win an Oscar. Neither did Welles I believe. I think that says it all right there. And it is because those two tried to make films their own way.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, of all the films competing for the oscars, La La Land and Moonlight were neck and neck. It definitely looks like something was up here. Pretty much sums up the Clinton/Trump campaign. One looked like the winner only for the other to sneak it. It’s no coincidence that had to happen in the same year. I’m with you on Kubrick and Welles. Shit! Even Scorsese, Pacino and Paul Newman were constantly overlooked for years. It’s a load of shit, man!

        Liked by 1 person

      • A load of shit indeed. I’ve never understood the fuss, nor have I ever understood why people get peeved that a certain film didn’t or did get an award. Who cares, if you like it, you like it!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, it’s all a matter of taste but I still feel the need to vent when a film is sooo overhyped though. It makes me feel that some people don’t deserve an opinion lol 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haha! Though I think film is something where anyone can have an opinion. I really do think though that this ticked the right boxes, and with Trump winning, it is even more timely. I think that could be a big reason why people latched onto it – we are both out of the US and see this film the same, so perhaps that has affected things. The film also looks very good, which certainly helps. But its no masterpiece for me.

        Like

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