As predicted, as expected, a certain needling presence in the HE realm has called out yesterday’s Moonlight riff (“Moonlight in the Ozarks“) for stating that a big part of Moonlight‘s success with critics and industry types is that it’s black and gay, and that it wouldn’t have done half as well if it had been about some rural gay kid from the Ozarks. The needling presence accused me of expressing myself in a racially incorrect manner. Here’s my reply, sent a few minutes ago:
Do you keep a hickory stick at home to beat people like me with…you know, people who don’t get it the way you do?
You know that Moonlight, which I’ve admired all along as far as it goes, would be considered a marginal film at best, and certainly not a Best Picture contender, if the lead protagonist was a gay white-trash kid/teen/older guy from the Ozarks. You know this and you lie all the same.
You know that a certain carte blanche NY & LA p.c. mindset exists regarding any and all black, gay, lesbian, transgender, fat-shamed or Native-American characters in movies. You know it, and yet you lie and try to give me grief because I speak plainly and frankly about these matters rather than put on my p.c. ballet shoes and tippy-toe around them.
Moonlight is very good for what it is, but it’s on the slight side. It really is — it’s not a full-boat movie as much as a sketch, a concept, a less-is-more exercise. It’s one of those films that feels like a short story and expands when you think back on it (which, granted, is always a mark of something exceptional or at least rooted) but there’s still not a whole lot of “there” there.
Journalist pal #1 (who’s gay): “I hated it.” Journalist pal #2 (who’s straight): “It’s not gay enough.”
The early life of a “soft” kid, Chiron (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders), who’s lonely, scared and huddled, is influenced by two factors — a kindly local drug dealer (Mahershala Ali) who briefly provides some much-needed paternal attention and affection, and in his mid teens by a kid (Jharrel Jerome) whom Charon is drawn to and who winds up giving the teenaged Charon (i.e., Sanders) a life-altering handjob on the beach.
That handjob is a very big factor in Moonlight. It’s really “the” factor when you think about it. A more complete title would have been Moonlight: Handjob On The Beach.
To summarize, Chiron’s whole life is (a) I want to be a drug dealer when I grow up so I can feel closer to Mahershala’s Juan on some level and that whole emotional atmosphere he gave me of “I got your back, you’re good, I accept you and love you” and (b) I want another handjob like the one I got on the beach from Jharrel Jerome’s Kevin.
This, boiled down, is what Chiron’s (i.e., Trevante Rhodes) life is basically about in Act Three — I wanna be like Ali, I want another handjob and maybe a bi more from Kevin, who’s now grown up into Andre Holland, and I gotta tell my mama she definitely wasn’t a good mama when I was young and she was strung out.
Any strong character in any fully-written film would be about more than just this, but this, boiled down, is what Chiron is basically about in Moonlight.