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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Friday, February 20, 2015

Movie Review - Boyhood

Boyhood (2014)
Starring Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater, Marco Perella, Brad Hawkins, and Zoe Graham
Directed by Richard Linklater

I appreciate the experiment of Boyhood, but the movie itself feels oddly unimportant given its cinematic uniqueness.  Then again, I that's the point, is it not?  Let's place a camera into the life of a boy and follow him through twelve years of his life -- whether that life be full of excitement or not.  A cinematic reality show, if you will, with a fake story to go along with it.  I say that and I ponder just how different this is from something like the Real Housewives franchise that has been going on for years and years.  That's an unfair comparison, however, as Boyhood at least feels steeped in reality unlike the hair pulling and cat calls of those overly privileged women.

Seeing it so late in the game, I'd already heard the critical lauds heaped upon Boyhood and I must admit that I was slightly disappointed as the film began.  That being said, as the film progressed across its nearly three hour length, I found myself becoming oddly more involved in the lives of Mason (Ellar Coltrane), his sister Sam (Lorelei Linklater), and his divorced mother and father Olivia and Mason, Sr (Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke).  There is something compelling about the simplicity of life and watching it unfold like a home movie onscreen.

As a younger child, Boyhood focuses on Mason's parents a bit more than the kids and while it's perfectly believable that Olivia would fall one alcoholic loser and maybe even two (which she does), these particular scenes that support the bulk of the first half of the film feel the most forced, obvious, and acted.  Perhaps it's because they stand in such stark contrast to the mundaneness of the rest of the film (which I say not with a sense of disdain, but with fondness).  However, as the film advances through Mason's life, Mason himself becomes more interesting as he discovers the person he wants to be.  Granted, I would never be friends with Mason and I'd quite frankly find his philosophical meanderings, drug usage, taste in music, and bleakness rather obnoxious, but it's admittedly interesting to watch a "real" person age through life and find himself.

Director Richard Linklater didn't quite know what he was getting when he cast Ellar Coltrane and his own daughter Lorelei at such a young age and the emotional results of those choices are a little suspect at times.  Though neither Coltrane nor the younger Linklater are disappointing, there are times during which these two are needed to "act" that feel admittedly forced.  Coltrane fares a little better, but then again it's his character's story so he probably should win out amongst the two younger stars.  The young man is particularly at his best during his scenes in eleventh and twelfth grade when he falls for the lovely Sheena (Zoe Graham) -- these moments rang most true and proved to be a nice capstone to Mason's story.

Patricia Arquette has been racking up awards left and right for this performance and while it certainly isn't bad in any way, shape, or form, I found the role oddly bland.  Yes, her Olivia makes questionable decisions when it comes to men, but beyond that her character isn't given a whole lot to do.  I wanted some touching scenes between her and her children, but I never got them.  Ethan Hawke, on the other hand, I found much more compelling as Mason's father.  Perhaps it was the "father-son" dynamic that Linklater wanted to explore a little more, but in the private moments in which Masons Jr. and Sr. talk to one another, Hawke exudes a sense of profound caring for his cinematic son, imbuing in him a sense of purpose, individuality, and identity.  I'm not quite sure Hawke was playing anyone but himself -- it kind of felt oddly similar to his character in the Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight series -- and I think his character has the least amount of emotional growth, but his work is really solid here and slightly under-appreciated.

It is true that what Richard Linklater has done here is create a compelling piece of art.  Its uniqueness, bravery, and ballsiness can't be understated.  Would I have liked a little more oomph?  Yes.  Would I have skipped over the seven to twelve-year-old years and maybe just crafted a two hour movie from a teenage perspective?  Perhaps.  However, the "epic" nature of Boyhood has to be commended in some ways.  None of Linklater's works blow me away in terms of his directorial flourishes or techniques, but as a writer and storyteller, he's intriguing in what he wants to bring to the cinematic medium.  For that, he must be commended.

The RyMickey Rating:  B

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