It's the time of year where Oscar buzz starts to be heard and this film is getting a lot of it. Realistically, it didn't look like the type of movie I would enjoy but the platitudes were loud and frequent. And I remembered how much I did enjoy "Straight Outta Compton." So why not?
While I'm not sure "Moonlight" deserves all the raves it's been getting, I'm here to tell you that it is quite a good film. And certainly not the movie I was expecting, especially when the very first thing you hear is the soundtrack and some song that proclaims, "N*gg*r, you can be a star!" I started to squirm. Is this going to be some drama acted out on an urban and gang-infested street?
Um, yes and no. Again, surprises were in store for yours truly.
We start in Miami of the 1980s and we meet a shy, nine-year-old Chiron. Daddy's long gone and his mom's a druggie. Oddly, he's taken under the wing of his mom's dealer, who actually serves as a responsible Big Brother to Chiron. And, then suddenly...
it's about seven years later and Chiron, still quiet and introverted but a big more responsible, is trying to fit in at school. Remarkably, the actor now playing the character looks very similar to an older version of the 9-year-old actor. Kudos to the casting department.
Chiron is also grappling with his sexuality...yeah, I didn't see that coming either. His buddy Kevin is attracted to him and they share a moment under the...here comes the title...moonlight on a beach. But, things happen at school as some gangs get involved. And then, suddenly...
there's another clever morphing of character and actor as we meet present-day Chiron right out of prison. And...I am surprised again...he is approached by present-day Kevin also out of prison but already re-established in the community. And then we have the beginnings of a romance.
"Moonlight" ends before their future starts, but the trip to that point is quite refreshing and...again...nothing like what I was expecting. Occasionally, the writing and direction by film maker Barry Jenkins falls into the cliche category. But, overall, it is a story that is captivating and well worth your attention.
Is it Oscar material? I don't really think so, but, given the Academy's diversity push, I'm sure "Moonlight" will get slotted some place. And I suppose there are worse pictures to get that attention.
LEN'S RATING: Three stars.
Dinner last night: Hamburger and salad.