Starring: Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater
Directed by: Richard Linklater (Slacker, Dazed & Confused, School of Rock, Waking Life)
Synopsis: A movie that was filmed over the course of 12 years watching the trials and tribulations and maturity of a young boy into a young man. Sort of.
What work(s): The Concept. Concepts are great. While necessity is the mother of invention; concepts are the mother of creativity. If for no other reason you should see this art-film is to see the growth and change of the actors in the span of the 12 years they were filmed. It was a huge idea and risk to do such a novel idea, especially without it being a documentary and it’s quite amazing Linklater was able to pull it off.
What fail(s): However, everything and I MEAN everything fails. HARD. This is one pointless and boring movie. If you’re going to have such a high and novel concept you better deliver on it for it to work. Boyhood is horribly boring, horribly executed and horribly scripted. If there was even a script. It seems like the screenplay was completely winged on the spot each and every scene. Which makes somewhat sense since they don’t know how the kid(s) will grow up and act or be involved with. Having a very fluid script could’ve worked in their favor but I’m sorry they filmed the lives of some very boring and uninteresting kids, especially the boy, Mason. He starts the film as a first grader with his sister (Linklater’s daughter) and single mother (Arquette) and there’s really no conflicts or challenges. And when there are conflicts and challenges, there are zero emotions or commentary regarding the conflict. Case in point: Arquette falls for her college professor. In one scene we see a somewhat bewildered look on Mason’s face as he sees his mom flirt with the professor. The next scene Arquette and the new dad are returning from their honeymoon. I was raised by a single mother since I was 6 and having my mom date some fellas was a very dramatic experience for me as a wee lad. It’s a new experience that presents challenges and emotions but that’s all glossed over. Nowhere is a scene where the mom even asks her kids if they like that guy. Or anything. Then after a few scenes we are presented with the dramatic fact that he’s a raging and violent alcoholic and practically throws a glass cup at Mason for no reason at all. Then Arquette leaves the kids alone with this monster and he drives them around nearly killing the kids. Then Arquette returns and takes her kids away from the drunken asshole. Now I glibly and casually wrote this plot-point since this is supposed to be a quick review but let me tell you it’s a very tense few scenes of a suburban and domestic nightmare. But do we get the melodrama or emotional response from the kids. Nope. Next scene the daughter is complaining about starting at a new school and I can’t even remember what Mason said; if anything. Mason is a very shy kid and barely talks in this film.
There are so many times that there could’ve been drama in this kid’s life, yet he’s basically unfazed by most of what happens around him. Occasionally he learns a life lesson or realization from his dad, Ethan Hawke. It seems whenever Hawke was in the scene, then Mason opens up and has decent conversation with his dad who tries to teach him something. So some props to Hawke but at a running time of 2 hours and 45 minutes it’s not even close to enough.
There’s so many things that happen to a boy in those years that were glossed over or even forgotten about. I wasn’t that much of an interesting boy either but I got into trouble a few times and had a ton of trials and tribulations that made me the man I am today. Make Mason get into a fight and get suspended from school at least once. There was a scene when bullies in middle school threaten him. He tries to act tough and just ignores them. They are never seen or heard of again. Are we to believe that the problem just either went away or that Mason learned something profound from this act of unnecessary aggression ourselves? That’s weak and horrible storytelling. You don’t introduce “villains” like that and then have no resolution to them. Seriously, what’s the point? He falls in love, sort of. But he’s a boy with raging hormones and yet he has the most plain and simple courtship with one girl. I’m not even sure we see them kiss. NOT EVEN A NICE FIRST KISS SCENE!! That’s a huge milestone in any kids’ life yet totally not Linklater’s bag to want to connect with his audience in these nice and huge life moments. He got laid but apparently it was no big deal since it wasn’t shown or talked about. Then they broke up and Mason is barely fazed by it. He got a somewhat decent chat from his old man about girls and break-ups but again, it didn’t look nor feel like Mason needed the pep talk. He drank liquor and smoked pot but it never had any consequences with the law or his folks. He kinda had a little conflict with going to college (I don’t know what I want to do with my life—very common and relatable conflict) but a few scenes go by and he was accepted with a scholarship. Big whoop! The most conflict he experienced during high school was getting a pep talk from his photography teacher about responsibility and doing the real hard work instead of just being a great artist with ideas—WHICH, (I just had an epiphany!) is exactly a perfect metaphor for this film and Linklater’s approach. Sure he had a great idea to film the same kid for 12 years but he never followed through with the concept to really show his life and his trials and tribulations. The kid just moseyed on through his growing years without any passion or emotion. His parents too never had much passion with purpose. Here’s the exact conversation between the photography teacher and Mason for you to fully see what I’m getting at:
Mr. Turlington: [Enters the darkroom] How long have you been in here, Mason?
Mason: Not sure.
Mr. Turlington: I’m sure: All class. Did you complete your image diary?
Mason: Not yet.
Mr. Turlington: Completed your digital contact sheet?
Mason: Not quite, but, I mean, it’s not gonna take me long.
Mr. Turlington: “Not yet.” “Not quite.” Darkroom time is extracurricular. I mean, technically, you don’t ever have to be in here these days. And certainly not until you’ve completed your assignments. That’s the deal.
Mason: [Sarcastically] Sorry.
Mr. Turlington: I’m worried about you, Mason.
Mason: [laughs] Why is that?
Mr. Turlington: I’ll tell you why: The images you’re turning in, they’re cool. You’re looking at things in a really unique way. Got a lot of natural talent.
Mr. Turlington: Yeah, but that and 50 cents will just get you a cup of coffee in this old world. I’ve met a LOT of talented people over the years. How many of them made it professionally without discipline, commitment and really good work ethic?
Mr. Turlington: I can tell ya. I can count it on two fingers:
[Makes A-ok hand gesture]
Mr. Turlington: Zero. It’s not gonna happen for you, Mason. The world is too competitive. There are too many talented people who are willing to work hard; and a buttload of morons who are untalented, who are more than willing to surpass you. As a matter of fact, a lot of them are sitting in that classroom out there right now. Hm? You know what they’re doing? They’re doing their assignments. Which is what you’re supposed to be doing, but you’re not. You’re in here. Now, why is that? You’re special, Mason?
Mason: No, but, I mean, the things you’re talking about, like, work ethic or whatever, I feel like I do work pretty hard. I spend the hold weekend taking pictures a lot of times.
Mr. Turlington: You like football, Mason?
Mason: Not really.
Mr. Turlington: Yeah, I know you don’t. That’s why I’ve just assigned you to shoot the football game tonight. Okay? Starts at 7:30, I want you to get there early. I want you to shoot a full card, 300 images. I want ’em downloaded, I want ’em sorted, and I wanna see ’em very first thing Monday, okay? Wanna know why I’m doing this?
Mason: I guess.
Mr. Turlington: Who do you wanna be, Mason? What do you wanna do?
Mason: I wanna take pictures. Make art.
Mr. Turlington: Any dipshit can take pictures, Mason. Art, that’s special. What can you bring to it that nobody else can?
Mason: That’s what I’m trying to find out.
Mr. Turlington: Try harder. Hey, maybe in 20 years you can call old Mr. Turlington, and you can say: “Thank you, sir, for that terrific darkroom chat we had that day.”
[Walks out of the darkroom]
Mr. Turlington: Get back to class and do your work.
Overall: I usually like Linklater. Actually, let me rephrase that. When I was younger I really liked Linklater and his “philosophical” talking movies. I can probably not give two hot shits for the drivel that the characters in Slacker and Waking Life have to say when I’m nearing 40 years old. Back in my early 20s it was great and meaningful when my philosophy and brain were more flexible to free-thought. But I’m all grown-up now and my ways are more set in stone. Even Dazed and Confused is just a movie about high school kids waxing on and on about what they think life is at 18. But that movie at least has great interesting and unique characters and a super awesome soundtrack to make it re-watchable. Plus it gelled with me while I was a high schooler and it’s more nostalgic to watch that movie now. But Boyhood is a dreadful bore filled with pointless shots and scenes that end up going absolutely nowhere. Great, you filmed the same kids over the span of 12 years but you didn’t give them any good or substance-filled scenes to have them in. Sure, real-life is plot-less but we’re not watching a documentary here, Linklater. Give us an entertaining or interesting story. There’s hardly any emotional response to any of Mason’s life stages or conflicts. It’s as vapid and hollow as watching a documentary of someone’s life without the people responding to the events after we see it shown or dramatized. In other words, you know how in a common documentary you’ll see a scene of something important happening to our subject. Then either while it’s happening or afterwards a person will give commentary on what’s happening either sitting in a room or studio expressing how they feel about the event. This film is without those people commenting or reacting to the events. Pointless is the best way to describe this film and I would totally discourage anyone who see a movie with any sense of plot or melodrama to see it.
Before I leave you fine readers with a review of a film that will not matter because it will probably still win best picture next month at the Oscars. I want to show you another quote from Mason’s mom when she last sees him before he leaves for college:
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!
Like I’ve been saying, we don’t see the titular boy in this film’s milestones enough. They didn’t even mention he may be dyslexic until this very scene. Again, that is a conflict that could’ve made for an interesting scene that they didn’t bother showing or even talking about it. We never saw her help him ride a bike either. Plus after I watched this scene I yelled at the screen that she’s being crazy because she has a second act of her life to see her kids’ milestones and see the fruit of her labors manifest into great moments of happiness. Seeing her kids graduate college, getting married, having kids of their own. But nope you keep thinking of only yourself you selfish moron. But I stress again that this is another great metaphor for Linklater not seeing the forest for the trees with his grand concept of 12 years of labor. I would’ve killed for some melodrama or even some tired old Hollywood cliches about growing up just to have some substance in seeing these bores growing before my eyes. Hell, I’ve gotten more emotion and meaning from looking through someone’s photo albums since they are chock full of milestone moments. This “film” fails so many times and in so many ways I’m very upset and baffled that it’s getting as much love and accolades as it is. Last year I complained so much about American Hustle but I’ll gladly watch that dumb dreck again before I even attempt to see Boyhood ever again. I feel bad for Ellar Coltrane really. He has this significant film made that he can cherish because he can go back and watch himself grow up 12 years in less than 3 hours and it’s a tiresome and horrible bore. I’d be pissed if I acted in this movie since I was 6 and it’s this fucking lame. No amount of Oscars will help this movie be anything more than a concept. If it wins it will quickly be forgotten about like so many other best picture winners of late like The Artist, Crash and The King’s Speech.
Score: 1 “What can you bring to it that nobody else can? Linklater!?!?” (out of 10)