Fans who have been paying attention to Barry Jenkins since Medicine for Melancholy, his first feature, might have had him pegged as an artist in the same vein as Richard Linklater or Charles Burnett, artists who look for humor in modern life first and foremost. His second film, however, is the upcoming Moonlight, a far more atmospheric and naturalistic work than Jenkins’ first movie, which drew comparisons to the directors in the mumblecore movement like Andrew Bujalski or Joe Swanberg. Moonlight is more in the mode of something like 2009’s Ballast with a script that Jenkins said was openly influenced by Hou Hsiao-hsien‘s lovely Three Times, urgently envisioned and yet deeply focused on the vast mysteries inherent in the passage of time.
In such a case, it makes quite a lot of sense that, according to Deadline, Jenkins will be scripting an upcoming biopic about Claressa “T-Rex” Shields, the first American female boxer to win Olympic gold in the sport. Those familiar with Shields will no doubt know that the pugilist already has one movie focused on her exploits, this year’s moody, entertaining documentary T-Rex, which premiered at SXSW. Jenkins’ film would assumably take a broader look at Shields’ life, as the documentary makes a point of showing off the athlete’s physicality and her ability to move in unique, studied ways.
Considering how much physique ends up coming up in Moonlight, I wouldn’t be surprised if at least some of these elements became just as important in Jenkins’ script but the writer-director has a history of finding distinct perspectives from which to tackle popular subjects. So, though I’m sure his script for the T-Rex biopic will be evocative at least, the question now becomes whether or not Jenkins will direct the movie. After seeing Moonlight, one of the year’s best films, I’m certainly hoping that he will, if only because I’m not entirely sure any other artist would be able to get inside Jenkins’ mindset and dialogue in a truly meaningful way. We’ll have to wait and see how all this pans out over the next few months.