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‘Moonlight’: Must-See, Oscar Worthy, Coming-of-Age Film

In three distinct acts, writer-director Barry Jenkins uses cinema to tell the story of Chiron, with an intimate look at his path to self-discovery

Moonlight
Moonlight Movie Poster (Website)

Moonlight is a must-see film, which deserves to be an Oscar contender in multiple categories. I tend to have mixed emotions about coming-0f-age stories, but Moonlight is a well done, heartfelt story.

The film is about a young, African American male growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami, as he struggles between childhood and adulthood and grapples with his sexuality and sexual identity in a culturally hypermasculine social environment.

Road to a Box Office Hit

 

A hit on the film festival circuit, Moonlight has opened to a limited run in four theaters: two in New York City and two in Los Angeles—just after Spirit Day, when millions wear purple to stand up against bullying, in support of LGBTQ youth.

Rightfully so, Moonlight is already receiving critical acclaim, and was among the big stories at the box office on its opening weekend. According to Box Office Mojo, Moonlight—released by the indie company A24with executive producer Brad Pitt on the credits—scored an impressive $414,740 in just three days, with a $103,675 per-location average. This weekend, screenings of Moonlight will expand to Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., and it will be released nationwide on November 1.

While it’s too soon to tell, Moonlight will hopefully achieve record-breaking box office success. Comparatively speaking, the gay themed film, Brokeback Mountain, which opened at $109,485 per-screen, ultimately grossed $83 million in domestic box office receipts, and it earned Ang Lee the Oscar for Best Director.

In Moonlight, Black Boys Look Blue

 

Moonlight writer-director Barry Jenkins warrants an Oscar bid. Based on the semi-autobiographical play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, the highly cinematic story is told in three distinct acts, with three different actors playing the main character.

Kudos to Jenkins and the casting team in their selection of 10-year-old Alex Hibbert, who plays a bullied Chiron, aptly nicknamed “Little.” Then there’s Ashton Sanders, who plays the tormented teenage Chiron. Trevante Rhodes plays the incarnation of Chiron known as “Black,” an emotionally closed-off, hypermasculine, “gangsta” adult. If you look closely the movie poster, it blends all three of their faces together.

Three talented actors also play Chiron’s classmate and childhood crush, Kevin; Jaden Piner plays Kevin in childhood, Jharrell Jerome plays Kevin in his teen years, and Andre Holland plays Kevin as an adult. The film is anchored by extraordinary performances from the ensemble cast, including Naomie Harris—Eva Moneypenny in Skyfall and Spectre from the James Bond franchise—who plays Chiron’s drug-addicted mother. Additionally, Luke Cage co-star, Mahershala Ali, plays a drug dealer and surrogate father to Chiron, and songstress Janelle Monáe plays Ali’s nurturing wife.

Moonlight is a combination of powerful acting and great storytelling around the themes of family, bullying, friendship, love, community, identity, and sexuality. It is a story that is very relatable for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider, and it offers a different perspective of the LGBTQ community and the black community that we often don’t get to see. I loved the powerful, yet subtle handling of a table conversation around “Little” Chiron questioning his sexual orientation. Moonlight is truly an intoxicating piece of cinema that uncovers deep truths about the moments that define us, and the people who shape us most.



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