Director: John Stockwell
Writers: John Stockwell, Lizzy Weiss
Stars: Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez, Matthew Davis
Do you remember the thrill you felt when Holly Hunter rose from the ocean depths in The Piano after she slipped her foot out of her boot and let her beloved piano sink to its watery grave? We heard Ada’s new voice – full of feeling – declare, “My will chooses life” as she gasped for breath and our hearts leapt forward. We shared the exhilaration of her narrow escape from a silence bred by judgement that women should be seen and not heard, cared for but not cared about and live happily ever after as caged birds who never sing.
In Blue Crush, Anne Marie (Kate Bosworth) breaks through that same membrane of a clutching oceanic despair that her life isn’t worth living. But she does it as a modern girl, not one from a past century. This girl deliberately takes on the crushing waves that have nearly silenced her. And she does it time and time again until she conquers the fear – “girls don’t score”.
Yes, Blue Crush is a summer teen movie and, I cannot tell a lie, I was there simply to see the big waves on the big screen. So, when Anne Marie’s story kept tracking, revealing the powerful inside story of a young feminine hero who has already come of age and is now struggling to make it in the world against many, many odds, I was surprised. And I felt personally touched by this ordinary young woman – sexy, well-meaning and delightful – go for it. We don’t have enough movies where girls get the real challenge of spirit, following what Joseph Campbell popularized as their ‘bliss’ on the road less traveled. And while the traditional hero gets the girl as part of his package of winning and succeeding, the feminine hero meets the guy along the way and must risk losing him to achieve her goal. This movie captures that conflict and much more.
Anne Marie is back on her surfboard in the major Pipe Masters competition after an accident three years previous at this same location in Oahu. A treacherous reef lurks beneath the huge waves like Hades in the dark recesses of the earth, waiting to claim the fragile bodies that dare the awesome pipe waves it creates when they fall from their boards. Anne Marie’s fall nearly took her life. But she has returned to try again.
Anne Marie’s critical re-entry to competition is complicated when she meets a guy with real relationship possibility. Matt (Matthew Davis) may be a pro quarterback on vacation but he comes across as a stand-up guy who truly likes her. Matt presents Anne Marie with what all women know as ‘the heroic choice’ just five days before her day in the pipe. It’s not the man per se, not relationship vs. career per se; it’s the mythic moment when a woman becomes her own person. Like Ada in The Piano who knew Baines couldn’t solve her problem, Matt can’t give Anne Marie the solution to facing an age old fear that a girl can’t actualize her talents and step into society on her own two feet. There are many ways a girl can stay tucked into safety, fit into an old vision of woman as childlike and needy of a man to make her whole. Do you know that they actually say, “she’s laying her line” when a surfer enters the pipe? Could surfing the pipe be any more symbolic of a girl meeting the challenge of following her own path?
In Blue Crush, Anne Marie’s mother has left her daughters to go to Las Vegas with a man while Marie is surfing the same spot where she almost lost her life. Only from the mythic perspective that a girl faces her crossover moment to womanhood on her own, without a mother or parent present, can this be believed. And Anne Marie is not completely on her own, like the orphaned knight of many fairy tales. Since this is a feminine hero’s journey, she is not only tossed to the winds of chance and danger but she has a younger sister to look out for!
Fortunately, she has friends who share her dream, wanting her to succeed not just for herself but for women everywhere. One friend is a coach (Sanoe Lake), the other a personal cheerleader (Michelle Rodriquez). They both want to see her picture on the cover of magazines as ‘Teen Girl of the Year’. Her thirteen-year old sister, Penny (Mika Booren) is a brain, a good kid and lucky to have Anne Marie set an example of willful determination before her. When Anne Marie signs in, a friend is right behind her shoring up her confidence.
And Anne Marie is such a girl, not verging toward tomboy, rebel or toughie. She’s driven by feelings, guided by her desires, and wants to be liked for more than a cutie in a bikini. She takes a chance on Matt’s attraction to her, uses her feminine wiles to embarrass the celebrity football players who abuse privilege by leaving their hotel room utterly gross and then befriends them when they want to learn how to surf. She shies away when women who’ve won a place on the surfing circuit show up. She wants to earn their respect, not be the darling upstart. It’s impressive when one of these seasoned women breaks from singular ambition, reaches out to Anne Marie – a bit paralyzed before her run – and launches her down the face of the wave into the pipe. Somehow, we relax. Things are as they should be.
The challenges of a young feminine spirit will be met.