Mahershala Ali deserves his Oscar. His role as Juan is incredibly powerful. He owns every scene he’s in.
And Barry Jenkins directs this Tarell Alvin McCraney script with his own additions and flourishes and those work just fine. People, settings, the ocean and even a diner all shimmer with beauty.
I’d argue that “Arrival”, “Lion” or “Fences” would be just as worthy a Best Picture Oscar winner. Much as I enjoyed watching and hearing “Moonlight”, there are a few elephants in the room.
Chiron is a lead character who mumbles, through all three of the actors that play him. Yes, that’s valid for a shy character but just a tad difficult when you are the watcher, straining to hear what he says.
And for a movie that manages to have no white characters – bravo – and centres on growing up and being gay and poor and Black – again, bravo, why is there so little sex? Drugs abound, references to sex are here, but the one (!) sex scene is just a little lame.
With so much passion in the script, that seems an odd oversight. I’d argue that sex is entirely necessary to the plot, yet it’s almost absent.
My memory of Liberty City, where this is set, is that everyone has something to say about race, sex and drugs. They are equally savvy about poor housing, politicians, policing and white privilege.
Visually stunning though “Moonlight” is, that music can overwhelm it, at times. It’s odd that the music is so perfect, during key scenes, yet takes over too much, at other key scenes.
Everyone’s clothes are beautifully ironed, even when they are passing out on drugs. I have no idea why that annoys me so very much, but it does.
Naomie Harris is fine as Chiron’s mother but I think Janelle Monae, as Juan’s girlfriend, puts on one of the best performances of the year. How was she not nominated for an Oscar?
There is so much I love in this movie. The screening I went to, at Stratford East Picturehouse, was packed and full of entranced viewers.
To sum up, the emperor is wearing way too many clothes. Ironed and brand new clothes. And all the artistic brilliance on show here fails to move me to ignore those details.