After the biggest and most ridiculous gaff in Oscar history (If you’re working or driving, don’t text), Moonlight was belatedly awarded the coveted Best Picture Oscar, not by Warren Beatty, but by the gracious director of La La Land. The pressure to love and praise the 2017 Best Film was beyond irresistible. After all, I am an old white, guilt-ridden male who is a member of the Democratic Party, the ACLU and an outspoken advocate of LGBT rights. I’m probably gay too, who knows? No answer or comment about this required or desired. Moonlight also received almost universal acclaim from professional film critics. I guess I should have cared deeply about this poignant, 3-part movie about a mute, gay, black kid with a crack-addict of a mother, but somehow I didn’t.
Moonlight, like the movie Boyhood, showed the development of a young man from pre-puberty to adulthood, but unlike Boyhood, it used different actors for the different time periods. This was no problem at all because what they pulled off in Boyhood will probably never again be duplicated; what they did not pull off with Moonlight is to make a movie that was more than remotely interesting or relevant. The first act of the movie was clearly the best as we were shown a shy and bullied “little man” who encountered Juan, a ghetto drug dealer who was brilliantly played by Mahershala Ali. They bond, and the cleansing and instructional scene in the ocean was the very best in the movie. I was still with this film, but after the first act Ali disappeared and so did any hope for this Best Picture to remotely meet my expectations.
From here on, there will be *Spoilers*, so be advised.
In the second act Chiron (his real name) was now a gangling teen-ager who was grappling with his sexuality, his crack-head of a mother, and with bullies at the local school. He found out more about his sexuality after a homosexual encounter with his friend Kevin on the beach, but that relationship was heartbreaking as it was devastatingly destroyed by a hazing ritual at the school. Chiron was left beaten, bloody and with crushing disillusionment after this intense scene. He did extract revenge, but there was no rolling back the emotional damage, and the second act ended with Chiron being hauled off by the police to a detention center.
The third act of the movie was the weakest and the most puzzling. Chiron was now known as Black and did not resemble Chiron as a school boy. He was a ripped, grilled-up Black Adonis of a drug dealer who still carried a crush for his first and last love, Kevin. We were subjected to 30 minutes of excruciating boredom and predictability, with the adult version of the other two characters. It didn’t help much that the adult version of Kevin also looked like he had just been dropped in randomly from another movie. The movie slowed to a crawl and the ending was predictable and totally uninspiring. The pacing of this last act, characterized by many as some sort of high art, was just painfully boring. Movie ends with reunited cuddling.
I’m sure that many will disagree with my review. The professional critics sure do. Yes, the cinematography was sometimes beautiful and the directing competent, but Moonlight was mediocre + at best. It was certainly a push-button niche film guaranteed to raise pressure to recognize it for its courage to enter into darkest realm of the GayHood of political correctness. I mean, what could have been any more relevant save a Black Feminist riding in on Roy Roger’s horse wearing an I love Bernie polo shirt? As a guilt-ravaged white person who viewed this film, the coercion is rejected. Was Moonlight a bad film? Heck no. Should it have come anywhere close to winning Best Picture? HELL NO! With or without the correct card, Faye Dunaway had it right the first time. Not only did the Oscars fumble with the delivery, they totally botched the ultimate pick as well.