Yawn. A big ‘ol yawn.
I’m not saying yawn to the subject - a very closeted gay black man with no parents or social support system who gets bullied. I’m not saying yawn to the importance of telling the story and putting characters who are rarely seen in the spotlight. It’s important. I’m glad this movie was made and that it’s getting attention.
It’s just really boring to watch. It’s slow, which can be fine. It’s acted with restraint and little dialogue, which can work. But it’s not entertaining. How can we embrace your theme or message if the artistic package within which you’re carrying it is not worthy of our attention.
The main character takes no action and almost has no reaction to the events that unfold around him. Is it a real depiction of how someone oppressed may behave in this situation? Perhaps. But it’s also bad storytelling. We don’t care about this character and can’t empathize - the one goal of a film like this. And if we’re not getting the empathy then through the audience a bone with some entertainment. But we don’t get that either.
Make the protagonist likable, have them change over the course of the film, have them take action to get what they want (if they fail, that’s fine), have them react to their environment.
Moonlight did NONE of these. I’m all for challenging the pillars of traditional storytelling but when you do you risk making a 110 minute exercise in frustration. Maybe that was the point?
Was the audience supposed to feel uncomfortable in the silence the same way the supporting characters did? I think that gives the film too much credit. Watching someone pout into their mac n cheese isn’t a movie. I’m not empathizing, I’m checking my watch.
It’s upsetting because, as mentioned, it’s an important and timely subject matter. If the film was better, it’d have a chance of being a true cultural staple. Instead I’m guessing it ends up as intellectual fodder for it’s educated liberal limited release and quietly moves onto VOD. The acting and directing, while definitely bold, was too restrained to make any award season impact, if I have to guess (still don’t know how those nominations fully work, either way).
One of my biggest issues with the film was it’s ‘3 chapter’ approach. Maybe we’ll see a different version or evolution of the character in each chapter? Nope! He’s the same quiet, stare-down-at-my-plate-and-not-speak boy for the first 60 minutes of the movie. Fuck that. It’s offensive and frustrating to the audience. The first two chapters were the exact same stories - lack of a father figure, crack mom, bullied, quiet. Establish those things in the first 20 minutes and let’s move the fuck on to how the character deals and copes and changes and learns.
Moonlight feels to me like the subject matter and themes got in the way of the storytelling, or perhaps were confused for story themselves. Good films aren’t stories about people who simply exist, they’re stories about people who struggle and change, regardless of if they win or lose. Did Chiron change by the end of the film? Maybe his resting his head on his friend’s shoulder is that moment. But why then?
Visually the camera work was roaming and aggressive. Too aggressive at times. Some nice follow shots but occasionally you’re wondering why the camera is spinning around. The visual flair seems to distract from the acting, which in this unique case wasn’t always a bad thing. Hey if the main character isn’t doing anything we might as well watch some camera tricks.
I loved the skin tones and saturation at times - maybe they cranked up the sharpness? The downside is a lot of the plant life came off as a sickly, otherworldly yellow. The style definitely relied more on color and texture than composition. It’s too bad because well composed shots serve the acting and the story better, while providing a quieter way to have visual flair and intrigue.
Glad I saw it but so frustrated because the subject matter had so much potential.