Blue Crush (PG-13)
Director John Stockwell (crazy/beautiful) knows how to draw the best out of teenage actors who seem refreshingly normal. With Blue Crush, he gives us a threesome of post-high school surfer chicks -- Anne Marie and her roommates who share a shack on the North Shore of Oahu while caring for Anne Marie's 14-year-old sister. Their mother (read: stand-in for evil stepmom) is off to Las Vegas for a tte--tte with her most recent boyfriend, and the girls are left to fend for themselves. The older three work together as chamber maids at a fancy Honolulu hotel, but their lives center around the surf, some of the largest and most difficult in the world, and on preparing Anne Marie for the Pipe Masters tournament where she will compete with top female surfers, vying for sponsorship. Also central to the plot is Anne Marie inevitably overcoming the paralyzing fear that has gripped her ever since she almost drowned in a previous competition surfing the Bonzai Pipeline -- and we know from the beginning that she will succeed.
A romance between Anne Marie and an innocuous NFL quarterback rounds out the story, with a subplot thrown in involving local surfer boys who want to kick some haole butt, but Blue Crush works best when the girls are in the water and the awesome waves are crashing around them. Frankly, we don't care if Anne Marie, played by pugnacious Kate Bosworth, gets her man; we just want her to do well at the surf competition. But this being a Cinderella story -- well, I won't tell you what happens but I'll bet you can guess.
Michelle Rodriguez of Girlfight and Sanoe Lake, a native Hawaiian and actual competitive surfer, are strong and sultry as Anne Marie's support system. And Bosworth seamlessly weaves between close-ups and shots featuring her stand-in riding the waves. She has a nice, firm musculature that makes her a believable athlete and when she competes, we're all eyes.
The real star of Blue Crush, however, is the cinematography. The ocean is shot from above, from below and from the surface where surfers bob on the frothing foam, awaiting a wave. The Hawaiian surf is enormous and exhilarating, and if the viewer can stop for one moment wondering how photographers could possibly have caught those breathtaking shots, the view is utterly mesmerizing, the light clear and the water azure. The action shots are gripping and beautiful. In one inexplicable shot, Anne Marie draws her finger along the inner curl of a huge wave as she shoots the pipeline. The camera shows the tip of her finger parting the water from the wave's inside, leaving us again to wonder where and how a camera could possibly have been placed to capture that image.
Blue Crush is loosely based on Susan Orlean's essay for Outside magazine, "Surf Girls of Maui," and doesn't try to be anything it's not. It's a lightweight romance, a chick-buddy saga and a surfer flick, straight up. The director wisely gives us more water time than land time, and we can overlook the film's slower moments when we're treated to those overpowering surf scenes. Hard bodies abound, the Hawaiian landscape is lazy and lush, the Bonzai Pipeline terrifying and the film's ending, smug and satisfying. Blue Crush is a quick and easy summertime escape and a relatively effective girl empowerment vehicle. If I had a teenage daughter, I'd take her to see it. And teenage boys -- well, there's an obvious attraction. Take them to see girls in motion and to see those fantastic waves.
-- Kathryn Eastburn