Moonlight is, quite clearly, the most critically acclaimed movie of last year. There's no disputing that fact. It topped well over 100 critics lists and has been deemed a landmark of cinema by many. Is it a coincidence that Moonlight's acclaim comes a year after #Oscarssowhite? Of course not. Just like it wasn't a coincidence that Birth of A Nation was seen as the second coming at Sundance and was on its way to multiple Oscar nominations UNTIL controversy hit that film's director, Nate Parker, and the film, all of a sudden, was shunned and met with divisive reviews. Moonlight's transition from festival to release was much smoother. Its director Barry Jenkins is a genuinely nice guy who volunteered for many years at the Telluride Film Festival. I met him once and we ended up speaking about director Wong Kar-Wai, an influence that seems to be all over Moonlight. His first film, Medicine For Melancholy, was a well-intentioned, but ultimately failed attempt at the atmospheric cinema of Wong Kar-Wai. It did show promise of a unique voice to come. His second film, Moonlight, came out of nowhere. Unanticipated and not really thought about before it's Telluride debut.
relevant themes in Moonlight. Tackling masculinity in ways that are both fresh and perceptive, he created a stylized and, sometimes, remarkable, film about a gay black man.
The first two acts are revelatory and uncompromising. They, however, set us up for a third act that fails to deliver on the promise that was built up in the film's first 70 minutes. Now a drug dealer with an overtly muscular build and gold grillz, the vicious circle has been set. Chiron has become Juan, the only father figure he could ever look up to in his childhood. The transition feels almost too facile and Jenkins' approach not very subtle. It's also dramatically flat and doesn't adhere to the first two acts' suspensful intrigue and fascinating dissection of masculinity. Instead of being this deep, heartfelt resolution it ends up feeling contrived and filled with empty, uninvolving words. Hitchcock once said "Drama is life with the dull parts edited out." Something Jenkins clearly hasn't learned that (Thanks, Steve Finkelstein!)