Chasing Mavericks

Released on October 26, 2012 0 comments

We’d like to believe a sport as majestic and mystifying as surfing would have been better served over the years by Hollywood. Unfortunately, this has not been the case.

Starting with the silliness of Frankie and Annette’s Beach Blankets, the emotion of wave riding has often been relegated to nothing more than green screens and stock wide shots for awful and overly childish love stories.

(There have however, been some excellent Documentaries. Though for today, we’re talking scripted efforts.)

Several years ago, “Point Break” tried to set a new standard with a grittier take on a group of shredders who financed their beach searching by robbing banks. Director Kathryn Bigelow (who rightly won an Oscar for “The Hurt Locker,”) succeeded in bringing the thrill of surfing right up and into our faces. With superb camera work, the passion came alive on screen like never before. We might as well have been choking on salt water right along with novice dude Keenu Reeves. Sadly it was Reeves, and even more so Patrick Swayze as the board-riding guru, who were the problem. Trying to capture the mysticism of surfing is a worthy undertaking, but it would have been more effective had Reeves never opened his mouth. If this guy had actually ever landed a job with the FBI, it would have been in R&D, as a weed-toking guinea pig. Swayze’s turn as Bode, the Bank-Thief/Surfer/Philosopher wasn’t quite as far a stretch, but was still lamentable. We saw “Point Break” on its opening weekend and still smile when we remember the 10-Year-Old boarders in the back row, decked out in Quicksilver T’s and laughing hysterically every time Swayze tried to rhapsodize about the complexities of being as one with the water. This is not to suggest Swayze was a bad actor, he wasn’t, though in this one he was exposed as a result of being miscast.

22 years later, we’re getting another shot with “Chasing Mavericks,” named after the famed set that invades the point of the same name just north of California’s Half Moon Bay. Like other big wave locales around the world, Mavericks is a phenomenon that can never be mastered, though the lure of a treacherous ride remains intoxicating, and the chance of standing up to such an overwhelming force of nature is a high like none other.

In its most organic form surfing is, like most sports, a metaphor for those things we can feel but never fully explain. Mavericks the film is no different. Submerged within the shots of a treacherous coastline, pounding white water and angry undertow shines the Universal theme of a boy in search of a father. The filmmakers have done an admirable job capturing the melancholy grey of the Northern California Coast, a moody motif that can only enhance the subject matter.

Gerard Butler dons the cloak of the wise and aging surfer, one who saves a young boy and later serves as mentor when the same child morphs into manhood driven by a mission of taking on the impossible. To be fair, the trailer has Butler spouting the same, Zen-Like truisms that Swayze’s Bode failed to sell all those years ago. Butler has a rugged appeal and a fading Scottish lilt that works in blended harmony with his deep voice. Whereas Swayze’s pipes could be somewhat reedy, Butler’s only serve to make us take notice, while his face illuminates an inherent weariness, one that gives him the depth needed for such a tricky role.

There are other positive factors dotted throughout Mavericks, including some well-placed and beautiful Bohemian women, the kind drawn to the waves for their own private reasons, women who don’t need validation from wimpy guys with Beemers and Lakers seats in the lower-ring.

We will admit to being a bit biased when it comes to strivers staking a claim beyond conventional borders, those sometimes trapped within a constant state of searching and introspection. At its best, surfing encompasses such ideals and much, much more. It’s also worth mentioning that this is the story of a real guy, and such flicks are sometimes pulled under by various issues and bickering, but here’s hoping this will be an exception.

We have high hopes for “Chasing Mavericks,” and will gladly plunk down our 14 bucks. Seeing such an undertaking months later on a television screen simply won’t do.