Film Review:Heart of ‘Mavericks’ is as big as waves

Film Review:Heart of ‘Mavericks’ is as big as waves
Gerard Butler (left) and Jonny Weston star in the true story of surfing phenom Jay Moriarity in the new film “Chasing Mavericks.” Photo courtesy of John P. Johnson

A triumphant blend of willpower and courage, “Chasing Mavericks” overcomes the wipeouts seeking to crush its indomitable spirit, transforming itself into a powerful tale not so much about surfing as it is about the real person who accomplished the impossible. 

Although I prefer to be under the waves rather than riding them, I can’t say I’m not impressed whenever I see surfers demonstrating their mastery of the waves’ power. To see these individuals exhibit their skills in a realm where the unpredictable rules supreme is a miraculous sight to behold, whether it is in a magazine or at the beach. Surfing, however, has had a hit-and-miss history in its big screen portrayal—at least, in my experience. I’m sure there are good ones out there, but the titles I’ve seen so far lack the heart to go beyond the waves and into the human soul. That is why “Chasing Mavericks” succeeds where others fail, because it has the heart to go deeper to understand what it means to achieve true victory.

Ever since he was 8 years old, Jay Moriarty (Jonny Weston) had a passion for surfing. At 15, he learns that the renowned Mavericks wave break — one of the most dangerous waves in the world — is real and exists not too far from his Santa Cruz residence. Jay turns to local legend Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler) to train him to survive something most people have regarded as a myth. As the two surfers set out to master the hazardous conditions the surf brings, they form a distinctive friendship that goes beyond the art of surfing.

The cinematography is nothing short of breathtaking. Every scene featuring Weston and Butler training in the Californian waters is beautifully shot, both up close and from long distance. Watching Weston complete multiple training sessions under Butler’s tutelage and then test himself in the unyielding environs of the Pacific Ocean is not only visually absorbing, but also emotionally captivating. The camera does not just restrict itself to capturing the emotions of the two leads while they execute their surfing maneuvers; it imbues the might of Mavericks with an omnipresent ferocity few are capable of braving and surviving. In fact, I think it is safe to say that seeing each wave crash and form creates an unusual melody that entrances the audience.

You can expect “Chasing Mavericks” to attract more than its fair share of persons from our surfing community; I lost count of how many surfing P.E. students and surf team members were present. Yes, I repeat, there were lots of young faces beaming with excitement. I must say it’s endearing to see the youth voice its support for a film they instinctively know will be worth seeing.

Those who aren’t surfers will nonetheless be awed by the stories of Jay and Frosty. Both Weston and Butler share great chemistry together as master and apprentice, and this friendly dynamic extends to their loved ones. I also liked how the emphasis was more on the characters’ lives outside of surfing; it helped to establish that the people you see have real strengths, weaknesses, goals, and emotions whether they’re on land or on the water.

Jonny Weston measures up to the idea of “trial and error” that his portrayal of Jay embodies. Not once did I see him cower in the face of adversity, all the while keeping true to his humanity. Gerard Butler delivers an engaging performance as Frosty, whose legendary surfer status is matched by his devotion to family.

Leven Rambin is both easy on the eyes and heartwarming in her capacity as Kim, the childhood friend and love interest of Jay. Abigail Spencer receives a generous portion of screen time as the wise, loving wife of Butler’s character, hitting all the right notes during each appearance.

If you wish to traverse the waves on a surfboard while looking into the heart of a once real person who defied expectations, then “Chasing Mavericks” is the ocean’s challenge for you.

When: Now playing
Where: Wide release
Run time: 1 hour 56 minutes
Rating: PG

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