Moonlight? Overrated. The whole movie’s beauty comes down to the character of Little. The rest of it is predictable and poorly narrated. Aside from more hollywoodian stereotypes, the film provides no value to its viewers who have to fill in very big gaps in the storyline by imagination. I find it difficult to use my imagination if provided with all the stereotypes and the limiting broad lines within which to think. The transition between scenes is bumpy and constantly demanding of explanation. A good film induces the use of our imagination, but it requires comfortable spacing and a sense of flow. Without flow, imagination becomes tiresome.
The story of the film develops in abrupt ways from the get go. Quiet quickly the viewer is taken between scenes that repeatedly point out the erotic moments in the child’s life with an attempt to be subtle. Problem is, if we repeat subtle too much, it becomes either obvious or outright confusing. In contrast with the tough life that Little has growing up with his drug addict single mother, all the subtlety leaves us with the implication that those moments of innocent male eroticism served as the boy’s comfort from the pain around him. When he became Chiron in the second chapter of the film, and had his first ejaculation with his friend Kevin, we clearly see the joy, and therefore clearly see why the boy turns out gay. Really?
As underwear brands already figured out, most gay men can relate to Moonlight as it presses all the common buttons known to produce a sort of erotic nostalgia, but in a conservative way! The erotic nostalgia later on turns into advertisements of Kalvin Klein as the grown up kid becomes a gym going homoerotic figure. Killing all the complexity of the character and minimising his story to the underwear. Half telling the truth, half pointing to the bigger context and half cutting scenes all lead to the easy packaged narrative that leaves us with not a single new insight into the life of a black American gay man, other than crime, social decline and misrepresented male sexuality. Why is it that after all the suffering in Little’s life does he turn out to be a self defeated drug dealer called Black, secretly gay and with big muscles? Is he repeating the cycle of self destruction out of which he had found no relief but the dream of Kevin’s touch? How rich! Why does he immediately plunge back into his nervous childhood when the old friend calls him after many years? and why is Kevin so lame?
In the end, which is also abrupt and half done, [we maybe should assume that] the sexually charged romance between the two is what Black had wanted all his life and that now, with Kevin’s job where he ‘happily earns very little’, the two can have a conforming life together. Why did the story of a kid struggling to assert himself in a poor marginalised society end in such a low note with a curtain of clichés? Why did he grow up to be weaker and not stronger? Why did this movie win so much Oscars? Where is the factor of surprise and innovation? The identity politics behind it are not sufficient to make it special, in fact, it defeats the positive potential of the movie in ways beyond repair. Because even a true-life story in the same societal and cultural context would have a lot more depth and insight compared to what the makers of Moonlight offer.