Written and Directed by Barry Jenkins
Starring Trevante Rhodes, Andre Holland, Janelle Monae, Ashton Sanders, Jharrel Jerome, Naomie Harris, and Mahershala Ali.
Moonlight, fresh off its “Wait, what just happened?” Best Picture win at the Oscars, arrives on Blu-ray. The disc has a commentary track by director Barry Jenkins that’s worth a listen, along with three short featurettes.
As I write this, movie buffs are still reeling from that historic Oscar ceremony flub that briefly gave the Best Picture award to La La Land before yanking it away in favor of Moonlight. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway admirably played the role of Steve Harvey, but the trophy transfer was not nearly as smooth (but maybe not as cringe-inducing) as that memorably beauty pageant fiasco.
I haven’t seen La La Land, so I can’t comment on whether the best movie won, but I can say that Moonlight is a piece of art that turns conventional cinema on its head. Its plot is one long, nearly two-hour misdirection in which we keep thinking we’re watching one kind of story and writer/director Barry Jenkins keeps telling us, “No, this is something else. Stay with me.”
Moonlight is the story of Chiron, who is a shy, bullied boy known as “Little” when we first meet him. He lives in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami, and a crack dealer named Juan gives him refuge from the bullies and his abusive mother. Then, like in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood (but without the decade-long filmmaking process), the story flash-forwards and Chiron is a bullied teenager dubbed “Black” by his friend Kevin, who eventually becomes more than that.
The third act of the story gives us Chiron, still known as “Black,” as an adult drug dealer whose life has charted a similar trajectory as Juan’s. He reconnects with Kevin, but the film doesn’t give us a pat Hollywood ending, nor does it dwell too long on the various tropes present in the story, such as “boy bullied by his abusive mother” or “drug dealer with a heart of gold.”
Jenkins seems content with giving us a movie that’s more like an extended dream sequence, one that lets us interpret the meaning of its events, rather than telling us what to think. Does Chiron handle his relationships with others well? Was he right in how he dealt with his high school bully? Jenkins leaves those answers to you.
That said, Jenkins does reveal his thoughts on Moonlight’s themes and other subjects during this Blu-ray’s commentary track, which is worth a listen. The disc also contains three featurettes that aren’t as in-depth as I would like but which are still worth watching: a 21-minute making-of piece; 10 minutes talking about the soundtrack; and five minutes discussing the filming locations. Perhaps there will be a more comprehensive release later, given the Oscar win.
A code for a digital copy is included too.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★