Moonlight meets Euphoria
You don’t need me to tell you to see Once Upon A Time in Hollywood or Ford vs Ferrari or The Irishman. Big movies with bigger movie stars that were all over social media and you saw ads for constantly. They’re each 90+ on Rotten Tomatoes and are absolute shoe-ins for Best Picture nominations. I mean, all you need to see are these posters and say no more, you’re ready to rock.
But how about this poster for the movie Waves below?
Does that look like something you want to sign up for? The actors listed aren’t even in legible font. Only cinephiles have heard of the director and there aren’t any TV ads. The picture advertisement alone probably isn’t going to cut it with all the shiny movies to the left and right of it at the theater. You need to know more, right? Well have no fear, that’s what Rated Greg is here for. But before we get to that lets hop in a time machine and go back 3 years.
The movie Moonlight was released wide by A24 on November 18th, 2016. Similar to Waves it lacked a descriptive poster and I do not recall seeing any TV ads. But when did YOU first become aware of Moonlight or feel compelled to see it? According to Box Office Mojo I’m guessing it wasn’t before Thanksgiving. Despite coming out over two months prior, the highest grossing day for Moonlight was actually January 28th, 2017 with $637K. It merely floated around among only the most devoted cinema fans until the Oscar nominations gave the general public the added context they needed to purchase a ticket. Placing that much weight on the opinion of Academy is a bit silly given their track record, but I guess it’s better that Moonlight eventually got the amounts of eyes it deserved than never at all. What’s that got to do with Waves? Well, I have a feeling something similar is going to happen this year.
It’s easy to see lots of parallels between Waves and the Best Picture winner three years prior. An A24 release in mid November. Features black characters in South Florida. A stylishly shot drama that will empty out your emotional fuel tank. But that’s about it. Waves isn’t a copycat situation trying to capitalize on the fondness of another classic. It’s a one of a kind, TOUR DE FORCE that will leave you out of breath by the credits. No joke, it seems strange to portray a suburban family drama as an edge of your seat experience, but you’ll understand when you see it. The way this film is shot is just as exhilarating as any of the excellent car races in Ford vs Ferrari.
I’m not going to dive into much about the plot. This story and even the format as it is presented is far better off seen knowing nothing beforehand. One thing I did find interesting and worth mentioning is that Waves is a film about a black family that was written by a white person (writer/director Trey Edward Schultz). This is a situation otherwise known as “The Green Book conundrum” but is handled far more delicately than last year’s shitshow campaign.
Apparently Waves is a semi-autobiographical take on a tumultuous time in Schultz’s Florida upbringing and the first person he cast was Kelvin Harrison Jr. as the teenage son, thinking it didn’t make a difference to the story what race the family was. Which seems true on the surface. Most of the shit that happens in this film could be about any modern day family and Harrison simply had the best audition. However what’s cool is that once Sterling K. Brown (shoutout This Is Us) came on board to play the Dad he met with Schultz several times to alter the script and add specifically black perspectives to certain areas. Brown felt strongly that the struggles each member of this family deals with would lead to slightly different experiences if it were a black family vs a white family, no matter if they were in the same tax bracket. Schultz wisely obliged and Waves is clearly a far better movie for it. Don’t be surprised if you see this at the top of my report card come December 31st. Grade A+