Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Blinded by the 'Moonlight'

Over the weekend we went to see "Moonlight," Barry Jenkins's highly touted three-part opus about an impoverished young black man named Chiron coming to terms with his sexuality. The film is spectacular in how much it does with so little -- the cinematography belies its $5 million budget -- and I can't overstate how many great performances there are here, including all three guys who play Chiron, as well as Mahershala Ali (as his mentor), singer Janelle Monae (as his big-sister/auntie figure) and Andre Holland (as the adult version of childhood friend Kevin). Still, the film was incredibly difficult for me to watch, evoking -- of all things -- my recent reaction to Richard Linklater's "Everybody Wants Some," both of which could serve as public service announcements about the dangers of toxic masculinity and the lives it destroys. While Chiron's circumstances -- loosely based on screenplay writer Tarell Alvin McCraney's own -- were clearly far more difficult than my own, the parts that overlap hit a little too close to home, making for a very unpleasant viewing experience. (Many of the scenes set in school, some of which are extremely violent, all but gave me hives.) While I would like to think I could step outside of myself long enough to appreciate a thoughtful work of art no matter the topic, I asked myself if a woman who was raped would be given a pass for not wanting anything to do with "The Accused" and I had to say yes. Bravo to everyone involved in the making of "Moonlight." (McCraney actually escaped his misfortune because of his writing and acting talents, eventually becoming a MacArthur Fellow.) It's an important film that deserves to be seen but might not be for everyone.

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