Monday, January 02, 2017

Moonlight (2016)

Moonlight is an ambitious coming-of-age picture, telling the story of an African-American kid growing up in Miami 20 years ago. He lives with gangbangers in his neighborhood and a mother who is a practicing crack addict. No father. He's gay too, which is something lots of people figure out before he does, including his mother. Very few are nice about it, including his mother, but in the end this movie is more about those very few. He's not just gay, but also sensitive, dreamy, and introverted. It's a tough life. Moonlight is formally ambitious as well, divided into three sections, with all different people playing the leads. The first sequence is from his childhood. He is constantly picked on in school and known as "Little" (which he is). The second section shows him as a high school adolescent, not as little but still picked on and now insisting on his actual name, "Chiron." In the third section he's a full-grown adult, buffed up considerably, living in Atlanta as a drug dealer. Now he calls himself "Black," for a nickname given him by a friend and lover in high school, Kevin. As the movie evolves, it is more and more about their relationship. The characters are hard and so are their lives. The high school scenes were most stressful because it's hard to look at what happens to him. It's interesting to discover the "woke" people who pass through Chiron's sphere. They're there. Kevin, his childhood friend, turns out to be one of them. When Chiron is still Little, a drug dealer reaches out to him, Juan (Mahershala Ali). Juan and his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monae) don't care if Little is gay. They tell him it's way too early to think about that, and he'll know when the time comes. Juan is decent in spite of his occupation, and bravely carries an obvious load of pain. His scenes are some of the best, but there are great scenes all the way. Moonlight might be easily reduced to stereotypes in summary, and might even sound gimmicky, but it has a sure and confident way of moving the story, which is always interesting, and it's packed with great performances. All six of the main leads—Alex R. Hibbert as Little, Ashton Sanders as Chiron, Trevante Rhodes as Black, and Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome, and Andre Holland as the corresponding Kevins—are no less than very good, and often phenomenal (especially Sanders, Rhodes, and Holland). It also looks beautiful. Plus it's a fine addition to other "moon" movies such as Bitter Moon, Paper Moon, Shoot the Moon, Moonrise, Racing With the Moon, Under the Cherry Moon, A Trip to the Moon, Duncan Jones's Moon, and others.


  1. Going to see this tonight--will read later.

  2. I thought the first (especially) and second sections were really good; didn't like the third as much. Never having been able to look past Janelle Monae's goofy hair, I had no idea she was so gorgeous. My favorite performance was Mahershala Ali's, who I already knew from House of Cards.