In case you haven't heard, Boyhood is an almost universally beloved movie by Richard Linklater, starring Ellan Coltrane, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke, about a boy named Mason, who does various things such as growing incrementally older over the course of 12 years. How did Linklater and his cast achieve this miraculous visual effect? They filmed the movie sporadically beginning in 2002 and wrapped in 2014 -- 12 years. Did I mention it took 12 years to film, and that it's universally beloved? Literally everyone loves it. Everyone. It's received a lengthy roster of palmarès and accolades, including the Golden Globe for Best Picture, eight Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Best Director, as well as a 98 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 100 percent rating on Metacritic.
If you saw it, you probably loved it, too. I mean, you'd have to be crazy not to, given how all kinds of important people have already said it's excellent. I'll get into my theories as to why it's so beloved later in this review (hint: 12 years!). What's considerably more difficult to understand is why it's being so effusively regarded as "the most extraordinary" movie of the 21st Century so far (The New York Times' A.O. Scott wrote that).
Frankly, since watching it on Saturday, I've felt like a crazy person, because the movie I watched ranged from being mediocre to unintentionally schlocky. For several days now, I've been struggling to understand why I'm so out of the loop on this one. It's not because I don't like experimental or independent films or even Richard Linklater for that matter, who's an otherwise solid filmmaker. Cutting to the chase, I didn't like Boyhood because it wasted my time with mostly unlikable characters, trivial content, occasional bad performances, predictable events, narrative dead-ends, generally bad storytelling and a whole lot of nothing.
Before we dig into this mess, here are a few things I liked about Boyhood. Ambition is good, authenticity is good, realism is good. To hire a child actor as the lead in a project that will span 12 years of his life is a huge risk, and at any point along the way the whole thing could've exploded. What if Ellan Coltrane, who plays Mason from age six to age 18, turned out to be a terrible actor? What if something awful happened to one of the other leads? These are majors rolls of the dice, and I give Linklater credit for taking the shot and actually finishing the project. The aging of the characters also provided a level of authenticity that we don't normally see in coming-of-age stories, which are often hobbled by bad latex makeup or several actors playing one character. Along the way, I appreciate that the screenplay contained real-life moments to heighten the authenticity of the aging. And if anyone deserves attention for Boyhood, it's Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke who each turned in the best performances of the movie.
Too bad Arquette, Hawke and... CONTINUE READING