"Blue Crush" is a film that's flawed, uses cliches and is often predictable. Yet, I often loved the movie, which rises above the material thanks to strong performances and perfect cinematography. The film stars Kate Bosworth ("Remember The Titans") as Anne Marie, a former surfing champion who was sidelined when she hit her head after a crash and nearly drowned. Suffering from flashbacks to the incident (which are shown and will definitely make anyone cringe), she hasn't been able to get back into the strongest set of waves yet.
On land, Anne Marie has found herself the mother figure of a group of girls that includes similarly-aged Eden (Michelle Rodriguez), Lena (Sanoe Lake, a Hawaiian local and surfer) and her own sister, Penny (Mika Boorem). Anne Marie, Lena and Eden work at the local hotel as maids, cleaning up after people and nearly getting caught when they try on a woman's outfits that were laying around the room. When they come upon the utterly disgusting rooms of a visiting football team though, enough is enough. When Anne Marie goes out to the beach to confront Leslie (Faizon Love), she gets fired.
Without a job and forced to find money to pay the rent, Anne Marie reconsiders an offer by the team's quarterback to give him and some of the other players surfing lessons. As it turns out, they're not such bad guys after all and Anne Marie, with co-teachers Penny, Eden and Lena, get along with them pretty well. Anne Marie even falls for the quarterback, but she finds herself having to have to choose between romance and the upcoming "Pipe Masters" surfing competition where, if she does well, it could mean a sponsorship deal.
Between opening and closing, "Blue Crush" attempts to cover several little subplots and does so with varying degrees of success. Eden's attempt to push Anne Marie towards the waves is nicely played, thanks to Rodriguez's strong portrayal of a not entirely well-developed character. Less interesting is Anne Marie's attempt to keep her little sister away from parties and in school. While certainly the right thing to do, there's only a few scenes of this and we really never understand what makes the younger sister want to rebel.
The performances are all very good, although Bosworth certainly surprised me. While not an award-worthy (although maybe MTV award-worthy) performance, the actress shows great presence and sweetness. There are a few scenes pre-wave in the water where Bosworth must portray the character's fears and excitement in her eyes and expressions and she does so quite wonderfully. Most importantly, she plays the character in a compelling and realistic enough manner that, by the time the competition rolls around, I was really rooting for the character, not looking at my watch to see how much time is left in the picture.
The other star of the movie is the cinematography. David Hennings (along with Don King, who reportedly worked on the film, but doesn't seem to be listed in the credits) creates some of the most remarkable images of surfing ever captured on camera, making me almost wish this was an IMAX picture, instead. There are a couple of moments towards the end of the picture where the characters ride through the pipe (under the curl of the wave) that is certainly one of the most remarkable of the movie's many outstanding visuals. These are really captures of a pure perfect moment of freedom. There are other scenes in the movie that use slow-motion to capture the power of the enormous waves, while other moments in the movie manage to put the viewer underwater, looking up as the waves crash overhead.
The film manages to combine stunning visuals with equally impressive sound design. Sound designer Claude Letessier's excellent work really brings the audience into the middle of the crashing waves. At least at the theater I saw the film in, the surrounds were working overtime throughout the film.
Overall, "Blue Crush" manages to succeed because, while it's occasionally predictable and some storylines aren't fully explored, it creates characters who are flawed, but genuinely good. Aside from boasting good performances and amazing visuals, "Blue Crush" is a movie with a lot of heart and it won me over.