While surfing is a competitive sport, its proximity to one of nature's forces is said to make it a spiritual experience. Riding 30-foot waves is testing your luck, regardless of your skill level. But watching the skillful manipulate the swells and currents is awe-inspiring. Chasing Mavericks
is a beautiful picture about dedication in all aspects of life.
The day after being rescued from nearly drowning by local surfer Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler), eight-year-old Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston) got on his first surfboard held together by glue and duct tape - and he stood up. Seven years later, he's surfing circles around everyone else in the water and looking for a new challenge. When he learns the fabled Maverick wave exists, nothing can stand in his way of riding one. First warned off by Frosty, Jay's passion and persistence convince him to train Jay to survive the wave. With only 12 weeks to prepare, Jay begins the journey to becoming a legend.
These films generally follow a formula. The mentor is usually resistant to taking on a pupil. The pupil has a difficult personal life. There's a girl. Tragedy strikes. The pupil overcomes all odds, earning his trainer's respect and achieving his goal. And then the obligatory, sentimental line: "He came to ride Maverick’s." Even though it's based on a true story, there's nothing particularly unique about the narrative structure.
On the other hand, the surfing sequences are stunning. The cinematography captures the waves and the riders beautifully. In those instances, the intensity and power of the water is conveyed to the viewers in a way that allows them to briefly and minutely connect with the characters. The final sequence with "the wave" is, at times, breathtaking. The footage of surfers paddling out to try their luck only to be beaten by the water is self-contained drama. Even without all the preamble of training and sacrifice, the ultimate test would have audiences on the edge of their seats.
The cast is adequate. Weston is sweet and likeable. He's soft spoken, but still demonstrates deep determination and commitment to the craft. Butler sports a scruffy look that hides a good heart and experience. Elisabeth Shue portrays Jay's alcoholic mother who loves him dearly, but never got over his father's rejection.
This movie doesn't carve a new path, but it does make the traditional one attractive to look at.
Directors: Michael Apted
and Curtis Hanson
Starring: Jonny Weston
, Gerard Butler
and Elisabeth Shue