Like a jellyfish in the ocean, Will Geiger's Ocean Tribe floats along, minding its own business, then suddenly stings you. A wet-hankie tribute to male bonding, it's about these five guys who grew up together, surfing and...well, that's about it, surfing. But they haven't seen one another since high school, and they probably wouldn't be reuniting now if one of them weren't dying of cancer. Weak and depressed, he's holed up in a hospital. So what do his buddies do? They kidnap him, stick him in the Granny Clampett seat atop their battered surfmobile and head off to Mexico to catch some valedictory 20-foot waves. Along the way, they talk, laugh, cry, argue, fight and surf. You've heard of The Big Chill? Welcome to The Big Kahuna.
Serving as producer, director and writer on this, his first movie, Geiger succeeds in that order. Shot for next to nothing, the movie looks like a million bucks...or more. And it's directed with the kind of skill that, should Geiger choose, will have him surfing straight to Hollywood. The script itself is rather emphatically metaphorical--our boys compared to a pod of dolphins, which will stick with a dying member until it sinks to the bottom of the ocean. I must say, I found all the boys-will-be-boys stuff annoying at first; but Ocean Tribe seems to mature as it goes along, from boys-will-be-boys to a-man's-gotta-do-what-a-man's-gotta-do. With death in the air, it's about what happens to surfers when the sun goes down.