365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About

28Jul/141

Boyhood (2014)

The first movie of 2014 likely to earn a Best Picture Oscar nomination, save for perhaps The Grand Budapest Hotel, is Richard Linklater's (Before Midnight, Before Sunrise) BoyhoodBoyhood is unlike any movie ever made or likely to be made again anytime soon. It had quietly been filmed over a 12 year period and only recently (six months or so before its release) did it really start to make noise and get people talking. Linklater shot scenes for this movie once a year for the last 12 years and let the fictional character of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) literally grow up before our eyes in the span of two and a half hours. The uniqueness of this film and the way that it perfectly captures the story of one American boy growing up in the state of Texas during the first 12 years of the 21st century and he he responds to both world  events and to the predicaments of his own life is breathtaking. The story itself is not one that I think would wow anybody if it were shot like a normal movie. But the story isn't the movie. The story is Mason and how he ages from a 6-year-old to an 18-year-old.

Boyhood is one of those stories where there really is no climax or denouement. You realize, not immediately, but very early on that nothing super traumatic is going to happen to this character. Boyhood is by no means a documentary, but it sort of plays out like one in the sense that Mason's story could, essentially, be anyone's story. Mason is no more or less remarkable or unique than any other boy. He has his interests, his wants, his triggers, his faults, etc. just like we all do. I would actually LOVE to watch and read interviews on how similar Coltrane is to Mason in real life. Mason is a laid back, kind, and humble kid who is curious about the world. He is respectful, resolute in his beliefs, and well liked by his peers. He grows up from a carefree BMX bike-riding little kid to an introspective, artistic teenager. His family, who each also committed 12 years of their lives to shooting this film is comprised of his mother (Patricia Arquette - True Romance, television's Medium), his father (Ethan Hawke - Training Day, Dead Poet's Society), and sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater - the real life daughter of director Richard Linklater). It was especially cool to see household names Arquette and Hawke age during this process, trying to remember which movie they were also filming during each time period in this film.

Boyhood is not without drama, but, to me, the drama never feels real or threatening. I felt like Sam made mistakes, as all kids do growing up, but these mistakes never really provide life-changing experiences. He drinks, smokes, and even smokes marijuana as a middle school student. His parents, who are separated before this movie begins, know he does all of these things, but he never really gets punished for any of them. Maybe it is because he does it in moderation and is wise beyond his years about it.  Maybe it is because his parents are just really laid-back and trust him. Or maybe it's because this part of the film is either, not very realistic, or is part of the fabric of today's society that we either don't know about or don't want to believe exists. I'm not really sure, but I sort of would have liked to see Mason make a mistake or two that really alters him or his way of life. Instead, his life-changing experiences occur through how he witnesses the events around him, specifically some of the ill-advised decisions made by his mother and father. His mother is overly stressed throughout the movie (and rightfully so). She seems to attract all the wrong men while struggling to provide a suitable home for her children while also trying to achieve educational and vocational goals that will improve the quality of life for her and her two kids. His dad faces his own stresses, though not as intense, as he struggles from an aimless drifter to one who wants to do right by his family. The love they have for their kids (and really each other too) is never questioned. Never do we ever feel like Mason is not going to be okay and, mostly, that is because of the love of his parents. Again, that really isn't the point of the movie. The point of the movie was to showoff a way to make a film that has never been done before. Perhaps this is why it currently has a 99% fresh ratting on the rottentomatoes.com website. This movie was carefully planned out from its infancy, but I wonder how much was changed along the way just because of the way Ellar Coltrane aged in real life. As stated above, it would be cool to see an interview with him about how different Coltrane is from Mason, both inwardly and outwardly.

I think there are a couple of ethical issues to point out about the movie that I'll throw out their briefly, but not really discuss. They mostly certain around Coltrane. Was it fair to sign him up to do this role in the first place. Obviously it came down to the decision of his parents. There was likely a casting call and Coltrane was selected. But he really had no choice in the matter. His life, or at least a part of his life, is on film for the world to see. The other question has to do with what would have happened if when he reached, say 15 years old, he decided he didn't want to do this anymore? Would he have been able to get out of it? If he did, would the film have continued or would Boyhood simply end at age 15? I hope he had some say in this matter. He seems unfair if he did not. With that said, he seems like he turned out to be a fine young man. There is already some Oscar buzz surrounding his performance. It would be cool if he got nominated. It's still a long, long time until awards season and there are only five slots so we'll see. Not to be lost though are the performances of Arquette, Hawke, and Linklater. They contributed just as much to the success of the movie and devoted almost as much time as Coltrane.

Film purists will love the uniqueness of this movie. This movie hasn't earned a ton of money at the box office and I suppose maybe it won't, despite its nearly perfect approval. Maybe it isn't mainstream enough for the general public. Maybe its too long. Maybe not enough happens. I could see all three of these as reasons. Outside of the die hard film-goers, I'm really not sure who would like this film and who wouldn't. I did like it, but I do not expect it to be in my Top 10 at the end of the year like I expect it to be in the Top 10 of just about every professional critic out there. It was cool to watch, but it didn't do enough for me. I like my dramas to have some drama in them and Boyhood really did not have that.

Plot 7/10
Character Development 8/10 
Character Chemistry 8/10
Acting 9/10
Screenplay 8/10 
Directing  10/10
Cinematography 7.5/10 
Sound 7.5/10 (this movie did such a great job early on with popular songs from that year being played often, but slowly got away from that, almost to the point where it was non-existent at the end)
Hook and Reel 8/10
Universal Relevance 8.5/10
81.5%

 

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  1. I’m almost exactly on the same wavelength here. I made the precise comment to Jen about wanting to know how closely the kid was in real life to his character. Jen loved it; I liked it. I admired what it wanted to be and the originality of its aims more than the end product, as I felt like tighter editing and a plot twist or two would have made things more interesting. Without that, it was just too long. I didn’t see anything about Coltrane possibly wanting out, but interestingly, according to imdb linklater’s own daughter wanted her character to be killed off when she wanted out halfway through. Linklater felt that wouldn’t be true to the aim of his story, and ultimately she got back into it.


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