Growing up I sure spent a lot of time in California. While it may have made me grow to somehow dislike Disneyland, it may also have been part of the breeding ground that is my fascination with sharks. Hitting the beach, wading around in the surf, or simply staying afloat, staring out at the horizon, I love it. I have to admit, sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong state. Living in Utah, I hate the mountains, or anything else too outdoorsy really, but I wouldn’t trade my life for anything. There’s plenty of ways to get my fix, going to St. Thomas, VI for my honeymoon (where I got to swim with sharks albeit pups), and I also have at least one airline at my disposal. So it came as no surprise I got caught up in the adrenaline while watching the Jay Moriarty biopic Chasing Mavericks.
Beginning in 1987 Santa Cruz, California, eight-year-old Jay (Cooper Timberline), is saved from drowning when caught in a wave break after saving his friend Kim (Harley Graham). Lucky for Jay that Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler) came cruising by right at that moment because as he tells Jay, “You just used up your entire allotment of dumb luck.” Bright eyed and full of pluck, Jay learns he lives across the street from Frosty and immediately looks up to him as the father he never had. The same night he learns that his own father has decided to leave them with a $400 Army Savings Bond. Seven years later, 15-year-old Jay (Jonny Weston) still seeks out the father figure in Frosty, who’s too busy for even his own children and wife, Brenda (Abigail Spencer).
One morning, Jay steals a ride atop Frosty’s van and winds up in Half Moon Bay, California. Frosty is meeting with some cohorts to hit the waves and Jay learns that the mythical Mavericks waves are real. Frosty is put off that someone now knows that Mavericks isn’t his own Loch Ness Monster anymore and Jay insists Frosty train him to ride the waves he’s only dreamt of. Having already been taught to surf by classmate Blond (Devin Crittenden) on the waves of Santa Cruz, Jay will stop at nothing to prepare himself to ride the wave of a lifetime. There’s also small subplots sprinkled throughout featuring a group of bullies lead by Sonny (Taylor Handley) and his unrequited relationship with Kim (Leven Rambin).
Director Curtis Hanson is not being touted as the head of production and it’s a shame. With films ranging from Bad Influence, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, The River Wild, L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys, and 8 Mile, and In Her Shoes, it could be his lackluster Lucky You to blame if anyone even remembered that that movie exists. Co-directed by Michael Apted after Hanson was dealt some health issues and missed the last three weeks of filming, you can’t really pinpoint the differences. The only thing I could assume is maybe Apted handled the scenes with Sonny and his friends because they do feel out of place. This could have been to blame on screenwriter Kario Salem (because the film does feature some pretty clunky dialogue to begin with), but Handley is a pretty bad actor to start with. The cinematography by Oliver Euclid and Bill Pope is top notch and breathtaking. And since everyone came to see why they should Live Like Jay, Chasing Mavericks will certainly show them the way.
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