Chasing Mavericks Review

Chasing Mavericks poster

Gerard Butler seems to be everywhere. He seemed like he was going to be the next hot actor after 300, but as the last movie I even remember seeing him heavily publicized in was The Bounty Hunter, that no longer seems to be the case. This time he’s opposite a new, young actor, Jonny Weston, whose biggest credit is that he is in the yet to be released film adaptation of John Dies at the End. Weston plays Jay Moriarty, a high schooler who dreams of surfing Mavericks, almost mythical 25-80 foot waves.

Butler plays Frosty Hesson, Jay’s next door neighbor and mentor to riding Mavericks. Jay met Frost at a young age, and he becomes a sort of surrogate father after Jay’s own father skips town on him and his mother, played by Elisabeth Shue. It’s Frosty that piques Jay’s interest and surfing, and after sneaking aboard his van, it’s also Frosty who inadvertently reveals Mavericks’ existence to Jay.

When Frosty’s wife, played by Abigail Spencer, reaffirms his fears, he knows that he will have to train Jay as he’s going to surf Mavericks with or without Frosty. Jay is going to have to learn not just how to surf immense waves, but how to survive them. Mavericks isn’t Jay’s only challenge, he has to deal with his best friend turning to drugs, his mother’s terrible work ethic and winning the girl of his dreams.

Gerard Butler in Chasing Mavericks
That Scottish rogue plays Frosty Hesson, the surf guru.

Once you get to Jay at 16, Chasing Mavericks hits its stride and never stops. That’s not to say that the opening with young Jay is bad, but there was something about the actors performance that bordered on Disney channel quality. The rest of the cast was absolutely fantastic, though they never did explain how a Scottish man became a surfer dude in California, but it wasn’t really a necessary plot point.

Chasing Mavericks walked a very delicate line between emotional and sappy. I never felt as if it was playing with my emotions to force me to care, instead it presented rounded characters that I wanted to care about. Jay deals with the typical crap that every teenager has to deal with, which let me relate, but I never had the drive that he had. Weston pulled off that yearn, when he looked at those waves, you could see that dream becoming a possibility that he wanted nothing more than to pull off.

This isn’t so much an inspirational sports movie as it is a coming of age story. Jay isn’t training to win the big game, he’s learning how not to die and Frosty is asking more of him than he’s ever been asked before. I’m not that into sports or surfing or the culture around either and it shows the movie’s strength just how captivated I was by Jay’s journey. Even though it’s based on a true story, it wasn’t one I knew and it made the journey to the end all the more fascinating.

Even if you know about Jay Moriarty, Chasing Mavericks is a beautiful telling of his story. Whether you care about surfing or not, this film is absolutely worth watching. Jay’s journey did inspire and in ways I was not expecting. The ending in particular was handled beautifully and really helps express the films true message to: “live like Jay.” I fear that it will be lost in a tide of fiction, but hopefully you will watch Chasing Mavericks.

In Theaters: October 26, 2012
Runtime: 2 hours
Rating: PG (for thematic elements and some perilous action)
Directors:  Michael Apted and Curtis Hanson
Cast: Gerard Butler, Jonny Weston, Elizabeth Shue
Genre: Drama
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox
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