Altogether a memorable, solidly made film, the 2017 Oscar winning Best Picture "Moonlight" has little to distinguish it from the other nominees in the same category of Best Picture aside from its LGBQT content. Despite strong performances by a uniformly gifted cast, director Barry Jenkins' second feature-length film (everything else has been classified as a 'short') looks and sounds familiar. We have another African-American drama high school set in the inner city (Liberty City) of the thriving metropolis of Miami, Florida, and the underdog protagonist Chiron is the product of a broken home who suffers mercilessly at the hand of intimidating bullies. Chiron's mother is just as heartless as the school bullies who harass him without let-up. Predictably, the moment he retaliates against his chief adversary Terrell (newcomer Patrick Decile), our protagonist finds himself clapped into handcuffs and packed off to prison. Sometimes, stories like this appall me, because the lead character-Chiron (variously played at different ages by Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and eventually Trevante Rhodes), has found life a challenge from the start and ordeal in progress. To say that Chiron has been treated unfairly is an understatement. Ironically, prison seems to be a break for him because it regenerates him into a strong, intelligent, perceptive man. Meantime, Chiron's single-mother Paula (beautifully played by a dolled-down Naomie Harris of "Spectre") is addicted to crack and spends time with a variety of men, often driving Chiron away from home to fend for himself. Briefly, Chiron finds a father figure in a Cuban dope dealer, Juan (Mahershala Ali of "Hidden Figures"), who takes him in with his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monáe of "Hidden Figures") and raises him during the moments that he has with him. For example, Juan advises Chiron to never sit with his back to a door because he won't know who is sneaking up behind him. Unfortunately, Chiron is as clueless about this as he is about life in general. He knows that the other kids at school ridicule him and want to use him as a punching bag. Eventually, one truculent student Terrel (newcomer Patrick Decile) compels Chiron's best friend in high school, Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) to unload on him in the playground, knocking him down three times while everybody else watches but nobody says anything. What bothers Chiron the most is the word 'faggot,' and Juan tells him frankly what it means. "A faggot is... a word used to make gay people feel bad," Juan explains. Nevertheless, Juan adds, "You can be gay, but you don't have to let nobody call you a faggot." Eventually, a hopelessly confused Chiron has his first sexual encounter with an apparently heterosexual friend, Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) and later feels betrayed when Kevin slugs him thrice at Terrel's insistence. "Moonlight" occurs in three phases of Chiron life. First, he is an adolescent dealing with his hateful mother. Second, he is a high school student struggling for help. Third, he is a grown man with a body like Hercules. For the sake of closure, Jenkins doesn't tell us what happened to Terrel. We see him sprawled in the floor of the classroom after Chiron has shattered a chair across his back. The moment that Chiron resorts to physical violence to attack Terrel was one of the more liberating moments in "Moonlight." Despite everything that Chiron suffers through from homeless to prison, he emerges as a self-aware individual who doesn't behave like a domino pushing others around because he had been pushed around."Moonlight" is a good film, but it is not a great film. The Best Picture Oscar "Moonlight" took home virtually guarantees that this social melodrama will never be forgotten. Academy had shunned African-Americans in previous years. Mahershala Ali deserved his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his quiet, restrained performance. The third Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay by Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, based on his previously unpublished play "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue" is deserved, too. According to reports, Jenkins and McCraney both attended the same schools in Liberty City, but they were not friends at the time. Although the film concerns controversial subject matter, Jenkins never shows any overt sexual scenes with nudity, apart from a kiss between Kevin and Chiron and the groans of orgasm when they sit together.
I am finding a lot of movies nowadays are so boring that I am inclined to walk out after an hour or so. However, some films get going in the second half and you find it was worth persevering with. Not this one. Told in three parts with some excellent acting the plot was week and one dimensional. Just when you think the story was about to take off it went back to the long drawn out scenes with too many pauses between dialog that you are left wondering if the conversation has been muted. Talking of conversation there are moments when the jive talk is impossible to interpret and you think you are watching a sequel to "Airplane." Good beginning, some middle and an ending that makes the movie a waste of time. Oscar winner? Shouldn't be.