There's undoubtedly a template at work in Chasing Mavericks: that of the inspirational Hollywood sports movie, where a young man transcends his limitations and finds fulfillment in his triumph against the odds stacked up against him. The trick is to know when and how to use the template; no matter how old-fashioned it may be, in the right hands it can still work up a storm, and Chasing Mavericks is a case in point, showing just what an attentive pair of hands (or, in this case, two) can do for a purely functional script "based on a true story". Here, it's the tale of late Californian surfer Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston), who became known at 16 when he rode the scary monster waves known as Mavericks in a spot across from Monterey Bay, and of his "initiation" under older surf vet Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler), who trained him rigorously to conquer such freak waves.

     Veterans Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted (who took over from Mr. Hanson at the tail end of filming due to health issues) hit all the right beats in their classic melodrama structure. They first do so by allowing their actors enough breathing space to fashion people rather than archetypes, and underlining but not overdoing the father-son bond that grows between Jay, whose own military father left the family when he was just a boy, and Frosty, who has unsolved issues of his own having grown up an orphan. And, then, by clearly and excitingly communicating the passion and commitment of these people to surf in ways that are usually very difficult or even impossible for non-surfers to capture and understand - since at its heart this is not exclusively a surf movie, but rather a melodrama that happens to take place within the surf community (who contributed wholeheartedly to the production).

     Granted, there is nothing new or groundbreaking in Chasing Mavericks, but the film's unassuming craftsmanship and quiet confidence, straight out of the classic era of studio filmmaking, suggest that there's nothing wrong about a well-told story - even if the music score by Chad Fischer can occasionally comment too heavily on the action.

Cast: Gerard Butler, Jonny Weston, Elisabeth Shue, Abigail Spencer, Leven Rambin

Directors: Curtis Hanson, Michael Apted
Screenplay: Kario Salem, from a story by Jim Meenaghan and Brandon Hooper
Cinematography: Bill Pope (colour)
Music: Chad Fischer
Designer: Ida Random
Costumes: Sophie de Rakoff
Editor: John Gilbert
Producers: Mr. Hanson, Mark Johnson, Mr. Hooper, Mr. Meenaghan (Fox 2000 Pictures, Walden Media, Gran Via Productions and Deuce Three Productions in association with Dune Entertainment)
USA, 2012, 116 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, Zon Lusomundo Alvaláxia 1 (Lisbon), November 2nd 2012


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