So Moonlight, one of the big awards-season movies. Gay persons are sort of obliged to see it, as it is a “gay movie,” although we’ll discuss what that may or may not mean later. As it is, the film is based on a play, and presented in three parts, one in which the main character, Chiron, is a boy of about eight, one where he’s in late high school, and one when he’s about thirty or so. In the first, he is mentored by an adult drug dealer, against the wishes of his mother. We find out that the dealer sells crack to his mother. In the second, he is bullied at school, and gets a late-night handjob on the beach by his one friend Kev. As an adult, he goes to meet Kev, and after some small talk Chiron reveals that no one has ever touched him that way, and then Kev touches him that way. Then the movie abruptly ends.
I had read ravishing reviews about the movie, but a few people complained about the non-ending [or rather, that familiar indie movie ending where you just stop the story, letting the very abruptness convey some kind of significance, without having to delineate what that significance might be]. It took me a while to get around to seeing the movie at all, largely because I had heard this about the ending.
Taking just what we have on screen, we have a movie about a black man who has homoerotic feelings, whether or not he turns out to be “gay,” but lives in such a violent, hypermacho world that he was no way of thinking about, let alone talking about, let alone acting on, his feelings. Looked at in that way, the whole film is about this man who is ten miles away from even beginning the discussion about who he actually is, and how he could live a complete, actualized life, and as such, it’s quite beautiful, sad and moving.
Thing is, it seems that movie is not the one the director intended to make, nor has any interest in. The director himself is straight [the writer of the play is gay], and both of them, in interviews, focus on the their similar backgrounds and the experience of growing up with mothers who were on drugs. The director has even said that he would have preferred to leave out the homosexual aspects of the story, but left them in out of deference to the writer’s past and work. So, is it a “gay movie?” To them, it’s a movie about growing up with addicted mothers with a thread of homosexuality. In interviews, they back away from the gay content and focus on the growing up in a poor neighborhood aspects.
Let’s start with the finished product on screen. It is a good movie that I would read as being mainly about the dealing with homoerotic feelings in a hypermacho environment. It is definitely worth seeing although it is sort of a character study at times seems like a short story blown up to feature length by including a lot of details and moving at a slow pace. And it has no ending, as discussed. But overall, it’s good.
Thing is, this movie is getting most attention as a gay movie, and is probably best seen as a gay movie, but it’s not really a gay movie. And one has to feel that the filmmakers are sitting back and letting it get attention as a gay movie—and no one is blaming them, anyone would want their film to get attention by any way possible. One also doubts it would get much of any attention if it were just about growing up in a poor neighborhood with an addict mother, whatever that says about our society and media. But at the same time… a gay person might feel a bit used by the way it all shakes out, especially the way the director is distancing himself from the gay aspects. So I have my reservations in that regard.
In conclusion, it’s fine. I thought it was good enough, not great. It’s worth seeing, but I still don’t have enough movies to make a Best of 2016.