Op/Ed By Gloria Winston
Some of the comments I’ve read since the Academy Awards last Sunday night appear to lean heavily toward suggesting the film “Moonlight” was not only undeserving of being named “best picture of the year,” but that it only won an Oscar because it was a “gay” movie.
I am beginning to think many of those who have offered their critiques of the film did not watch the same movie that I did, or that they did not watch the film at all.
Please both pardon and humor me, while I put on my Donald Starver-Movie Critic Extraordinaire hat for a minute, and share with you my take on the movie.
I have watched it three times, so far, and what I’ve failed to see is why anyone is calling the movie “gay.”
It was not “Broke-Back Mountain.”
It was not two hours of men literally making love on the screen.
The fact that the lead character, Chiron, was gay, did not really surface until the end of the movie.
In my opinion, “Moonlight” was a movie that demonstrated how love, and/or the lack thereof, could impact a young black man who was searching for himself, and his place in this world.
I also thought the three actors who portrayed him when he was in elementary school, as a teenager in high school, and as an adult, Alex R. Hibbit; Mahershala Ali; and Trevante Rhodes, respectively, were all superb in their performances.
As virtual newcomers to the acting scene, they acted their way into the history books.
Ali also earned an Oscar for best supporting actor, as a result of his role as the teenage Chiron in the movie.
Chiron’s sad life was told in three chapters, with his formative years spent in Miami.
He battled a loveless relationship with his crack-addicted mother, who earned money by moonlighting as a prostitute.
In fact, she often asked her son to leave the house when she was expecting a customer.
Seldom would you see a smile on Chiron’s face.
And, as a result, his sadness made me weep for the character, because, the first time anyone appeared to show him love was when he was rescued from bullies by a neighborhood drug dealer.
And, the drug dealer seemed to like Chiron, but it was not necessarily in a sexual sense.
The drug dealer eventually embraced Chiron like a father, however, he embraced Chiron in the way that a father would embrace a son –not as a lover.
The dealer was ultimately killed instead of going to prison, but the dealer’s girlfriend still continued to show Chiron the much-needed love he was missing from his life.
Yet, Chiron’s crack-addicted mother unfortunately took the money given to him by the dealer’s girlfriend on a few occasions.
And, in high school, the bullying continued for Chiron.
The lead bully in the film was apparently bi-polar.
At times, he would seem to befriend Chiron, but, most of the time he and his little gang were merely looking to chastise Chiron, or to beat him up.
Oftentimes, Chiron was afraid to leave school.
And, during the character’s elementary and high school years, Chiron only managed to have one friend who walked and talked with him, and questioned why he did not fight back.
The friend even attempted to show Chiron some self-defense moves.
Subsequently, near the end of the movie, Chiron and his friend found themselves sitting together on a beach, after dark.
Then, the friend, who also fancied himself a lover and ladies man, found himself embracing Chiron with a kiss, and the characters subsequently appeared to fondle each other, sexually.
However, despite this part of the movie, whomever directed this film managed to convey that, emotionally, this was the first time that Chiron had ever been helped, or felt loved in his life.
This resulted in a very powerful scene.
Later, Chiron’s crush (not his lover), was coerced into fighting Chiron, by the bullies.
It was his friend who struck him, and knocked him to the ground, which obviously betrayed any trust he may have earned from Chiron.
Yet, what that last beating seemed to do, was to finally give Chiron some courage.
The courage to fight back.
Chiron walked into his school the next day, in a way that suggested he was more than tired of being bullied, and that he was about to put an end to it.
He marched into his classroom, picked up a chair, and clocked his bully in the back of the head with it.
And, although it was unclear from the scene whether the bully lived or died, Chiron was later taken away in handcuffs.
During the final chapter of the movie, Chiron’s character was shown as an adult who, after leaving prison, had moved to Atlanta, and become a successful drug dealer.
By this time, his mother was in rehab in Florida.
Super-fine Trevant Rhodes played Chiron at this point, and he had matured in many ways. His muscular body suggested he had done lots of weight lifting in prison.
In addition, his high school crush, the young man with whom he’d had the encounter with on the beach, had also tracked Chiron down by phone.
Chiron then drove to Miami from Atlanta, to visit his Mother, and to visit his crush.
After they caught up on old times, the most powerful scene in the entire movie was when Chiron attempted to leave, but as he opened the door, he looked back at his friend, and said, “I have never let anyone touch me like you did.”
The movie ended with the two of them seated and embracing, with Chiron’s head on his friend’s shoulder.
So, to the critics who keep trying to say this was a “gay” movie, I strongly disagree, because, to me, it was a movie about LOVE, and how important it is in anyone’s life.
The fact that Chiron may have been gay was not the focus of “Moonlight,” or even close to being the story line.
Emotionally, this was a story about the journey many of our young people must take when their homes don’t give them the nurturing, safety, and protection that all children should be able to expect while growing up.
It also demonstrated the struggle of a young black man whose father’s presence was absent.
This is the movie called “Moonlight” that I watched. I don’t know what movie those who are calling it “gay” may have seen.