Jay Moriarty enjoyed a successful career in professional surfing, until his life was tragically cut short when he drowned while free diving in the Maldives at the tender age of 22. Chasing Mavericks wisely chooses to focus on his formative years and is at its best when depicting the important relationships in his life, especially the surrogate father he managed to find right next-door.
Jay (Jonny Weston) grows up studying the breaks of the waves in his home of Santa Cruz, CA. Saddled with an absentee father and a single mom (Elisabeth Shue) struggling to make ends meet, he turns to Frosty (Gerard Butler), a family man who sneaks away from his wife (Abigail Spencer) to Half Moon Bay on occasion to ride the big waves. He's soon training Jay in a methodical manner that makes him appear as some sort of Mr. Miyagi of the seas.
Since he was young, Jay has always pined for Kim, a girl a few years his senior, with the age gap creating a recurring impediment in their social circles. She's smart enough to realize that there must be a good reason why she continues to find herself in his presence time and time again though. With her encouragement and Frosty's guidance, Jay pushes towards tackling Mavericks: waves of awe-inspiring proportions.
The plotting is a little ham-fisted, the dialogue a tad clunky and Butler's American accent spotty at best, but the sprit of Moriarty overshadows these shortcomings. Weston successfully conveys his unflappable attitude and single-minded determination, and in his scenes with Butler, the essence of a life-altering dynamic is crystallized.
Amidst the exciting surfing scenes, which capture the giant swells of water in all their glory, the film never loses track of the human stakes. Director Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys) was forced to leave the film while shooting due to emergency heart surgery and journeyman Michael Apted (Gorillas in the Mist, the Up film series) stepped in to finish the task. It must seem somehow fitting to Hanson that he should have a brush with mortality while depicting someone who embraced his with such vigour.
He has helped to create a biopic that embraces the traditional Hollywood formula even as it turns it slightly on its head. For, while he may not have been around as long as some, Jay Moriarty crammed a great deal of living into 22 years. (Fox)