I’ve long admired the great Richard Linklater and treasured most of his films (the one negative standout being 1998’s The Newton Boys) And like everyone else I felt instantly engaged and intrigued, sight unseen, by the Boyhood concept — i.e., filming the life of a young Texas kid (Ellar Coltrane) and his sister (Lorelei Linklater) growing up with divorced parents (Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette) over 11 or 12 years (i.e., ’02 to ’13). Is Boyhood as rich and fertile as it sounds? I saw it last night at the Eccles, all 160 minutes worth, and I have to say “yeah, pretty much” — it’s a remarkably novel, human-scale, life-passage stunt film. I can’t honestly call it staggering or mind-blowing but that’s not a putdown, given what it is.
Boyhood is a mild-mannered thing, and yet obviously a mature, perceptive, highly intelligent enterprise. It’s never less than intriguing or astute or resonant. It feels like a docudrama — acted and written but naturalistic in tone. It grows on you like anything or anyone else that you might gradually get to know over a long stretch, and yet the 160 minutes fly right by. The long-haul scheme of Boyhood naturally gets in the way of what most of us would call a riveting drama. A film of this type is not going to knock you down with some third-act punch. It drip-drip-drips its way into your movie-watching system. And yet anyone who asks, I’m going to tell them “definitely worth catching” and “never seen anything quite like it before” and so on.
19 year-old Coltrane has an indie movie-star quality — centered, good-looking, magnetic, non-actorish. He’s a bit short but I’d rather watch Coltrane than, say, Dane DeHaan (also shrimpish) as your generic sensitive young guy. I recognized aspects my own sons in the appealing Coltrane. He seems exceptionally intuitive and mature beyond his years, and quietly sexy in a confident, cat-like way.
Boyhood is steadily affecting and fascinating (simply watching these obviously smart, sensitive kids evolve and mature is worth the price alone), and you’re constantly aware of director-writer Linklater and his actor-collaborators making an effort to flesh out the narrative in a way that feels honest and observant and which keeps you interested and “rooting,” in a sense, for the kids and their parents and respective mates to survive and work things out as best they can. Life happens, man. Look at those ten-year-old Mac computers! Thank God I’ll never have to deal with the Harry Potter phenomenon ever again — over and done with.
It’s interesting to note that Arquette marries and divorces two dickhead conservative alcoholics over the course. It’s one thing to live with or marry a bullying asshole on your own but subjecting two kids to this shit is highly unattractive. Talk about tripping repetaedly over the same stone. They both seem nice enough at first but then you get to know them. The first guy, a tequila-swilling, gray-haired shit with a flabby stomach and appalling taste in clothes, is the worst of the two but the second guy, a military veteran who works as a prison guard, runs a close second. I had an alcoholic dad (nowhere near as bad as these two guys but still) so I know the territory.
I like this passage from Owen Gleiberman’s EW review: “[Boyhood] has the feel of a staged documentary about a fictional character. It’s lively and boisterous and mostly very entertaining to watch, because stuff keeps happening, but the film also rolls forward in an almost Zen manner, so that everything that occurs — an angry family dinner, a camping trip, a haircut, an afternoon of videogames — carries the same wide-eyed, you-are-here significance. The film has that deadpan Linklater tone of slacker haphazardness, but you could also say that it’s almost Joycean in its appreciation of the scruffy magic of everyday life.”