Film-festival darling Moonlight probably deserves a big-ass pile of awards. It is, after all, a groundbreaking piece of cinema that paints a vital portrait of contemporary African American life by turning a story of crack-peddling, violent, gay men into an artsy snooze fest.
Like all Miamians, I only want to see movies set in my hometown that glorify badass criminals, stereotype gays or Cubans, or star white dudes whose job it is to take down badass criminals who are usually stereotypes of gays or Cubans. Moonlight is none of those things, and, I would go so far to say that despite its marketing and geographic setting, Moonlight is not a Miami film at all.
The movie, in fact, turns it’s back on our City’s long-standing tradition of producing dope ass films who’s only goal is to make the audience laugh, get aroused, or watch Al Pacino tell a pelican to fly. Scarface, Caddyshack, Ace Ventura, and Striptease are all hilarious and super sexy movies and none of them require me to spend an evening depressingly questioning my own misconceptions of what life is like for those different than me. Shit, even though Marley and Me was a bit sad toward the end it at least had a dog and Owen Wilson to lighten things up a bit. This movie only has Mahershala Ali, a fine actor, sure, but not someone who engenders any sense of levity into his scenes.
For those of you who want to pretend you’ve seen it, here’s the plot: Sad kid barely says anything ever. Sad kid then grows up, catches feelings for a man, gets a handjob, and recreates the system that created him. Blah blah blah blah blah, I get it, you want to give Barry Jenkins an Oscar. But not so fast!
Universal praise of a movie like Moonlight will only cause producers to make more sad, nuanced films without a single fucking explosion in them. That may sound great to you, person who definitely owns a fedora, but it’s not like those movies will ever be made in Miami again since the state of Florida eliminated its film incentive program and effectively killed Miami’s film industry. So you supporting Moonlight only incentivizes the production of more films that, sure, reverberate with deep compassion and speak to universal truths, but that are also very very boring and have exactly no the Rocks or Mark Whalbergs in them. And you’ll have to see every one of these boring carbon-copy knockoffs of Moonlight because they will all, of course, be nominated for Oscars, and what, are you just not going to see the Oscar nominated films? No, of course you will. Before you know it you’re going to find yourself sitting through dozens of Moonlight ripoffs, quietly crying to yourself about the plight of a hearing impaired Somali refugee in Baton Rouge or something without even the minimal enjoyment Moonlight provides of showcasing some buildings you recognize.
So, if you want to check out a movie set in the 305, Moonlight should come in dead-fucking last. Way after Ride Along II, All About the Benjamins, and Pain & Gain, all of which are amazing pieces of art that show Miami as the awesome party town your cousins imagine it to be and won’t require you to take a handful of Zolofts when they are over.
Two Stars **