Sports dramas are generally predictable and anyone expecting Chasing Mavericks to break the mould will be sadly disappointed, yet there is an elevating and magical quality to this compelling biopic of surfing legend Jay Moriarity, who tragically drowned aged 22.
Co-directed by Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted, the film begins with an eight-year-old Jay being saved from death by local surfing hero, Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler). Seven years later, Moriarity (Jonny Weston) requires the help of his saviour yet again: Frosty has 12 weeks in which to train the teenager to ride one of the world’s largest and most dangerous waves, the supposedly mythical Mavericks surf break, which in reality occurs near their home town in California.
Butler’s portrayal of the aloof mentor and father figure is almost too controlled, the character’s connection with the audience is never fully established and it’s left to newcomer, Jonny Weston, to carry the cliché-ridden narrative with endearing finesse. The two angst-filled surfers slowly develop a mutual need for one another and this, alongside breathtaking footage of the duo (and stuntmen) braving the waves, would have been sufficiently entertaining. However screenwriter Kario Salem interlaces a myriad of sub-plots to keep emphasising the same point: Frosty and Jay are troubled.
Mad Men’s Abigail Spencer depicts Hesson’s wife with disconcerting stoicism, deftly managing his reluctance to bond with his own children. Elisabeth Shue is brilliantly cast as Jay’s unreliable, single mother, but the teen’s ability to juggle the pressures of a gruelling training schedule, school, employment, paying the bills and a local bully, a backstabbing best friend and confusing signals from a love interest (Leven Rambin) seems far-fetched.
Those outside of sporting circles are sadly unfamiliar with the feats of the tenacious young surfer, but Chasing Mavericks will leave Brits in no doubt as to why his name and legend deservedly live on across the pond. As the film swells to its climax, the audience is rewarded with a heart-stopping sequence of angry, gargantuan waves and the terrifying danger facing Jay’s tiny figure explodes through the screen. Thus, despite its convoluted subtexts, Chasing Mavericks is a wonderfully uplifting film that will inspire even hardened cynics never to give up on chasing their dreams – but only if they’re prepared to work as hard as Jay Moriarity to achieve them.
Chasing Mavericks is released nationwide on 5th July 2013.
Watch the trailer for Chasing Mavericks here: