Blue Crush

I can recommend Blue Crush pretty much without irony for one thing: the surfing sequences. Mixing dizzying speed and the terrifying force of the waves, the footage — particularly during the climax, when surfers compete in the punishing Pipeline event — is about as electrifying as action scenes get. Director John Stockwell and his cinematographer David Hennings put the camera in the water, on top of the water, on the surfboard and inside the surfer’s viewpoint, and the camera feasts just as much on the radiant female surfers showing their stuff as it does on the seething white waves. Leni Riefenstahl might have made a movie like this (and, in her prime, starred in it too).

If you go to Blue Crush with no expectations other than kick-ass surfing and one hour and forty-four minutes of air conditioning, it’ll do the trick. But when the movie attempts to tell a story on land, you might want to bring along a flashlight and a magazine — perhaps the back issue of Outside in which Susan Orlean’s article “Surf Girls of Maui,” the loose basis for this film, was published. (Orlean has the surreal distinction this year of providing material for a surf-babe flick and a Spike Jonze movie in which Meryl Streep plays her.) Stockwell co-wrote the script with Lizzy Weiss, who came up with the time-honored plot following a Determined Yet Vulnerable Girl Who Must Overcome Fear to Realize Her Potential.

Anne Marie (Kate Bosworth) lives in Oahu with her rebellious kid sister Penny (Mika Boorem) and best friends Eden (Michelle Rodriguez) and Lena (Sanoe Lake). To make ends meet, the girls work as housekeepers at the local swanky hotel, until Anne Marie gets fired for objecting to a used condom left on the hotel-room floor by a visiting football player. She finds less to object to when she meets one of the other football players, Matt (Matthew Davis), who flashes $1,000 at her for surfing lessons; she promptly hops into bed with him, but as written (and played by the fresh-faced Bosworth), Anne Marie is clearly not meant to be taken as a whore, even if the more cynical members of the audience fail to see a difference.

Poor Anne Marie. Her mom up and left for Vegas with some no-account bum, her sister gives her grief, and Eden is always in her face to keep her mind on the upcoming Pipeline. Michelle Rodriguez is in the movie to be the tough-love voice of reason — the surfer who never had as much natural talent as our heroine and wants to see Anne Marie succeed where she herself failed. As the movie goes on, you begin to notice things like the way the blonde, pink Anne Marie is front and center, her dilemmas given the weight of Greek tragedy, while her non-white friends (including Lena, an amiable non-entity played by surfer and acting newcomer Sanoe Lake with more charisma, despite almost no material to work with, than her first-billed co-star ever shows) stay in the background for support. There are also two comic-relief African-American fatties who horse around and display their bellies every time the movie needs a laugh. Jar Jar Binks, move over. Leni Riefenstahl could’ve made this part of the film, too.

Those interested in the real world of female surfers might want to take a look at the 50-minute video also titled Blue Crush, released a few years ago; it featured a few of the real-life surf legends relegated to cameos here, like Keala Kennelly and Layne Beachley (who turns up as Anne Marie’s main competitor — she’s so laid-back and so supportive of her sisters of the surf that she actually helps Anne Marie catch a big wave). These women have the faces and bodies of real athletes, and you want to see more of them and less scenes like the one in which Matt takes Anne Marie to a posh dinner party and she overhears some snooty women ridiculing her dress. Blue Crush is about an hour of junk surrounded by dynamic surf action. But if that’s what you’re going to it to see, by all means go. Just don’t forget the magazine.

Explore posts in the same categories: drama

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