Those who know about real life surfer Jay Moriarty know how this movie ends. For those who don’t, I’m not giving it away. Despite criticism from some regions that this film doesn’t “capture” the true surfer dude, this film is well worth sitting through to see the outcome.
The movie portrays Jay’s (Jonny Weston) home life as troubled. Deserted by his father and left to parent a mother (Elizabeth Shue) that can barely function, Jay fends for himself remarkably well for an 8-year-old. Somehow he gets himself to the water and with the encouragement of a friend (Devin Crittenden) learns to surf.
Already an accomplished long boarder at age 15, Jay discovers one of the biggest waves on the planet is only miles from his home in Santa Cruz, California. But this isn’t the kind of wave one approaches unprepared. Determined to ride it, he asks his neighbor Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler) to train him. Refusing as first, Frosty changes his mind when his long-suffering wife (Abigail Spencer) encourages him to step up and be the kind of father to Jay that he hasn’t been to his own daughter Roquet (Maya Raines).
Catching the big one may be where the story’s climax is headed, but the path to get there is what makes the journey significant. Jay doesn’t appear to be driven by the fame of winning, though a few trophies appear in his room. He loves to surf, pure and simple. And he loves the challenge of pursuing something that far exceeds his abilities when he begins training. Frosty’s involvement proves to be life changing for both of them as they are forced to face not only their fears in the water but in the rest of life.
Visually stunning images of huge waves crashing on the rocks give a sense of Mother Nature’s temperament on this shoreline. Like Jay’s film mom, she is anything but coddling or accommodating. And though some viewers might question the value of putting one’s life in peril for the sake of sport, who is to say what goals are worth pursuing. Eager to honor Jay Moriarty, seasoned surfers Greg Long, Peter Mel and Zach Wormhoudt, who consulted on the script as well as appeared as Frosty’s buddies, ensure the scenes’ accuracy.
While I can’t argue whether or not this movie captures the real surfer or even the real Jay Moriarty, Chasing Maverick’s speaks to the courage, tenacity and drive of one young athlete who overcomes a dysfunctional home life to achieve something great and the man who overcame his own issues to mentor him. That’s worth the price of tickets for me.