I’m really knocking out the Richard Linklater films the past few weeks! I love most Linklater films, but his coming of age stuff (by which I largely mean Dazed and Confused) can fall flat for me, so I went into Boyhood with hopes but also fears. Of course I also knew the shot-over-12-years gimmick, and worried that it would be just that, a gimmick.
And to some degree it is – I mean, a lot of this is pretty standard kid-growing-up stuff, from the struggling single mom to sibling conflict, to the new stepfamily and that turning rotten, to fun weekends with dad, to raging hormones and acting out. Ellar Coltrane does mumble through the teenage years a bit, but I mean, that’s pretty accurate to most of the teenage boys I know. The film is necessarily episodic as we drop in on this kid’s life every three or four years and see what’s going on – we hit the high dramatic points (the biggest climax is about halfway through when stepdad turns violent and they leave in a hurry – I was glad the kids had at least a passing concern for the stepsiblings they left behind, because I was crazy worried about them, but we never found out what happened to them, probably because our family didn’t either).
In short, it’s a snapshot film, but the long filming time really worked for that. Both kids have awkward stages that they maybe wouldn’t have had if they’d just cast all those roles separately, as they probably would’ve cast kids who weren’t super awkward. (Worth nothing that the sister was played by Linklater’s own daughter.) That lent an air of believability to the whole thing.
I dunno – I don’t have a whole lot more to say about this. I enjoyed watching it (yes, all almost-three-hours of it, and I do think the length was justified), I thought the performances were very good. I’m glad Linklater made the film the way he did, as it did support the overall film (not just a gimmick), but aside from that it doesn’t add anything particularly new to the genre or anything. As with any Linklater film, I enjoyed the dialogue style (though some of it is appropriately vapid, as teenagers who try to say deep stuff invariably are) and wanted to keep hanging out with these people, which helped the running time a lot.
Stats and stuff…
written and directed by Richard Linklater
starring Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater, Steven Chester Prince,
I’m ranking all my Challenge films on Flickchart (as I do all the films I see), a movie-ranking website that asks you to choose your favorite between two movies until it builds a ranked list of your favorites. Just for fun, I will average out the rankings and keep a running tally of whose recommendations rank the highest. When you add a film to Flickchart, it pits it against films already on your chart to see where it should fall. Here’s how Boyhood entered my chart:
Boyhood > Successful Alcoholics
Boyhood > Breakfast on Pluto
Boyhood < Chloe in the Afternoon
Boyhood < The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)
Boyhood > Repeat Performance
Boyhood < Bedazzled (1967)
Boyhood < Batman (1989)
Boyhood < Miller’s Crossing
Boyhood < The Miracle Woman
Boyhood < From Here to Eternity
Boyhood < Ran
Boyhood < Jesus of Nazareth
Final ranking #797 out of 3645 films on my chart (78%)
It is now my #6 Richard Linklater film, my #6 Ethan Hawke film, my #3 Patricia Arquette film, my #9 Childhood Drama, my #36 Coming of Age film, my #7 Slice of Life film, and my #11 film of 2014.
Boyhood was recommended by Kara Rapp, a friend from church. Averaging together this #797 ranking with my #573 ranking of her other film, A Man for All Seasons, gives Kara an average ranking of 685.
A few quotes…
Mason: Dad, there’s no real magic in the world, right?
Dad: What do you mean?
Mason: You know, like elves and stuff. People just made that up.
Dad: Oh, I don’t know. I mean, what makes you think that elves are any more magical than something like a whale? Yoy know what I mean? What if I told you a story about how underneath the ocean, there was this giant sea mammal that used sonar and sang songs and it was so big that its heart was the size of a car and you could crawl through the arteries? I mean, you’d think that was pretty magical, right?
Dad: [Mason Jr. bowls a gutterball] Alright, don’t worry about it.
Mason: I wish I could use the bumpers…
Dad: You don’t want the bumpers, life doesn’t give you bumpers.
Dad: [frustrated with the monosyllabic answers Mason Jr. and Samantha are giving him] No, no, no. I’m not gonna be *that* guy. You know, the “biological father, who I see on the weekends, and I make small talk with him while he drives me places and buys me shit.” No.
Samantha: Dad, these questions are kind of hard to answer.
Dad: What’s so hard to answer about “what sculpture are you making”?
Samantha: It’s abstract!
Samantha: [after leaving Bill’s family for good] Why couldn’t we take Randy and Mindy with us?
Mom: Because sweetie, I’m not their legal guardian, that would be kidnapping; it’s against the law.
Samantha: Couldn’t you talk to their mom?
Mom: I tried their mom, but I can’t reach her.
Samantha: Well, what’s going to happen to them?
Mom: [starts crying] I don’t know…
Samantha: Why are you crying?
Mom: Because I don’t have all the answers.
Mason: So what’s the point?
Dad: Of what?
Mason: I don’t know, any of this. Everything.
Dad: Everything? What’s the point? I mean, I sure as shit don’t know. Neither does anybody else, okay? We’re all just winging it, you know? The good news is you’re feeling stuff. And you’ve got to hold on to that.
Mason: I just feel like there are so many things that I could be doing and probably want to be doing that I’m just not.
Dad: Is she cute?
Dad: All right, well, here’s what you do, all right, first off you gotta ask a girl a lot of questions, then you have to listen to the answers, actually be interested in her, all right, If you can do those things, you’ll be light years ahead of all the other guys.
Mom: [Mason is leaving for college] This is the worst day of my life.
Mason: What are you talking about?
Mom: [Starts crying] I knew this day was coming. I just… I didn’t know you were going to be so fucking happy to be leaving.
Mason: I mean it’s not that I’m that happy… what do you expect?
Mom: You know what I’m realising? My life is just going to go. Like that. This series of milestones. Getting married. Having kids. Getting divorced. The time that we thought you were dyslexic. When I taught you how to ride a bike. Getting divorced… again. Getting my masters degree. Finally getting the job I wanted. Sending Samantha off to college. Sending you off to college. You know what’s next? Huh? It’s my fucking funeral! Just go, and leave my picture!
Mason: Aren’t you jumping ahead by, like, 40 years or something?
Mom: I just thought there would be more.
Nicole: You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment? I don’t know, I’m kinda thinking it’s the other way around. You know, like the moment seizes us.
Mason: Yeah. Yeah, I know. It’s constant – -the moment. It’s just… It’s like it’s always right now, you know?
A few more screenshots…