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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Chasing Mavericks

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Gerard Butler and Jonny Weston star in a scene from the movie "Chasing Mavericks."
Surf's up in "Chasing Mavericks" (Fox), a thrilling action film about daredevil surfers who take on some of the biggest waves in the world, while rebuilding their own broken lives in the process.

The picture also offers viewers—particularly teens—a refreshingly positive role model in the person of a young man who, despite a mountain of obstacles, inspires others with his inherent sense of goodness, perseverance and self-discipline.

Jointly directed by Curtis Hansen and Michael Apted, "Chasing Mavericks" is based on the true story of Californian Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston). At the tender age of 15, Jay attempted to surf the Mavericks, a famously formidable coastal spot located near the Golden State's Half Moon Bay.

Jay is shown to have the weight of the world on his young shoulders. His father has moved out, and his depressed mother, Kristy (Elisabeth Shue), is a drunken mess. Summoning a maturity beyond his years, Jay must act as parent and breadwinner, sobering his mother up for job interviews while working overtime at a pizza parlor to make ends meet.

Compounding his problems is the situation at his high school, where he is bullied for being poor, and can't seem to catch the eye of pretty schoolmate Kim (Leven Rambin).

And yet Jay keeps turning the other cheek and looking ahead, leaving his peers puzzled. "You always smile," Kim tells him. "You only see the good in everything."

What keeps Jay going—and makes others jealous—is his natural gift for surfing. The water transforms him in a baptismal way, fueling Jay's desire to use his God-given talents for the betterment of others. Thus it's no surprise that at one point we see him floating underwater, arms outstretched in a pose that suggests the role of a redeemer.

Jay finds a kindred spirit in his next-door neighbor, Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler). He's the ultimate surfer dude who has family issues of his own. His wife, Brenda (Abigail Spencer), prays that Frosty will eventually accept responsibility and become a better husband and father.

Frosty's obsession with the Mavericks rubs off on Jay, and after much pestering, he agrees to train the teen in the art of big wave surfing. Frosty becomes Yoda to Jay's Luke Skywalker, teaching him the "four pillars of a solid human foundation"—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

"Chasing Mavericks" features some spectacular cinematography, placing audiences on the surfboard and above and under the waves. Surfing becomes much more than a sport, as the duo learns to overcome fears, face grief, resolve conflicts, and rebuild relationships.

Not surprisingly, "Live like Jay" has become a popular motto among surfers; perhaps now it will catch on with moviegoers as well.

The film contains intense sports scenes and some emotionally challenging moments. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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