I cannot think of a movie as comprehensively championed as Moonlight. A 99 metacritic score, a best picture win, sure to be on the very top of dozens of 'Best of the Decade' lists, and nary a single voice of dissent on the internet. It's career suicide for a critic to bash it, and reputation suicide for anyone else to do the same. Am I wired differently than the rest of the moviegoing world, or is the power of potentially being branded with the dreaded label so strong that no one has the courage to speak up and call this thing out for the self-important garbage it is? There isn't any movie that deserves the ridiculous critical fawning moonlight enjoyed. Least if all this tepid indie arthouse trash.
The selling point for this ludicrously overrated bore? It follows a young, black, gay, poor boy through life in the drug-riddled Miami ghetto. Quite the card for "Marginalized Minority Group Bingo". The collection of victimhood on display gives ample room for critics (leftist gatekeepers is a more apt term these days) and think-piece writers to celebrate the film's "cultural importance" or "revolutionary inclusion", and to use vaporous phrases like "the black experience" to try to sell its worth as a historic work of art. You'll notice, Moonlight's loudest champions don't talk about Moonlight, the movie, but rather, Moonlight, the idea. This film's creators struck some kind of gold with the con job they pulled. It's like a group of scientists spent years trying to create the wokest, art-housiest, most guaranteed critical hit the world has ever seen. And by George, they pulled it off.
Let's talk about our main character. Chiron (played by three different actors in different stages of his life, none of whom give good performances), is a parody of an art-house protagonist. A mute, sensitive thinker, Chiron's job is to sit there and be a stoic victim. He gets bullied and sulks, his mom emotionally abuses him and he sulks. He goes to school and sulks, and he sits on the beach and sulks. The closest you get to emotion with this dullard is a slight pursing of the lips. He's a block of wood. Every supporting character around Chiron is better defined, and relative to his dopey ass, more interesting. Mahershala Ali is alright in his 10 minutes of screen time, and so is Naomie Harris. The Oscar nominations and win might be pushing it, but they aren't bad.
You know what is bad? What is dreadfully, glaringly... bad? The writing. This whole movie plays like some loner's first attempt at poetry. It's all meaningless platitudes that sound profound, but don't make any sense, and carry no insight into the real dilemmas on display. I couldn't believe it when I heard a dime store, college freshman level line like "sometimes I cry so much, I feel like my whole body turns to drops" delivered with complete earnestness. That line, and many others, are straight up laughable. I've met my share of poetry nerds in college. They wish they could write a script this funny.
Coincidentally, I saw this film the same day I saw Brokeback Mountain for the first time. Watching this after another celebrated gay story reveals just how empty an emotional experience Moonlight is. Brokeback involved a relationship that was strongly written and acted enough to make a romantic relationship between two men universally understandable. It was genuine, involving real people with recognizable emotional desires. The sense of empathy it created was enough to break your heart by the film's end, no matter who you are. Moonlight, on the other hand, centers on a relationship that feels completely arbitrary. A manufactured, grafted on obstacle for our cow-eyed hero to overcome. Nowhere in the film's central "love story" did I feel as if I was watching independent people. The characters behave more like puppets, yanked around from situation to situation with no purpose.
Barry Jenkins, today's Hollywood's toast of the town, is really only concerned with the paint job. The showy, arty elements. The "dreamy" camerawork (or out of focus and shaky camerawork if you prefer), the poetic dialogue (laughable), the delicate background music. He doesn't much care about the characters as people, but as parts of his little tone poem school project. Moonlight is a lesson in tricking the "sophisticated" filmgoer. It consciously tries to look and feel like a masterpiece without creating any genuine feeling of its own. Every time I see this trash at the number one spot in someone's best of list, I get sick to my stomach. I refuse to believe that the qualities, or lack thereof, of this film can possibly merit such praise. It must come from somewhere else. From some desire to stay on the good side, the "right side of history" if you will. I could give a damn. I'll say what must be said...
Moonlight is garbage.