Movie Review: Boyhood (2014)

Posted: May 4, 2015 in Drama
Tags: ,

boyhood

Viewers follow the lives of Mason (Ellar Coltraine) Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) and their mom (Patricia Arquette) and Dad (Ethan Hawke) for 12 years in Texas.

If there are two words for the story it’s contrived and melodramatic. It plays more like a soap opera than actual life.  The parents are “cool,” permissive parents. Mom makes the same relationship mistake twice, and faces no consequences.  Dad is a musician who works as an actuary in an insurance company, although he is never seen taking exam or even cracking a book. Dad teaches Mason to shoot a gun, and spouts liberal political views in Texas.  Do liberals exist in Texas?  Maybe, but remember, this is the Hollywood version of Texas after all.  Mason gets makes poor teenage decisions, under the duress of peer pressure and faces no consequences either from life or parents, it’s the stepdads that try to set the rules, and they are portrayed as bad people for being strict. Samantha has less drama.  Mom only reprimands her when she forgets to pick up Mason after school when he’s 14.The problems just didn’t ring true to me, because the problems were hyper-dramatized, and hyper-sensationalized.  Everyone has a little drama in their lives, but not this much. The parents and their laid back, laissez-faire attitude to child rearing don’t ring true to me either, that isn’t how parents behave in real life.

The acting was surprisingly good, Ethan Hawke is a likeable guy who really tries to stay involved in his kids’ lives.  Patricia Arquette plays the hot mess quite well, going from one disaster to another and somehow surviving. It’s not quite real, but she makes the best of a bad script.   Did she deserve the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress?  Probably not. I think both Meryl Streep and Kiera Knightly were better. I was surprised how good the kids were, it’s hard to find kids who can act as kids and then act as teens.  Lorelei Linklater, the director’s daughter, was good, but Ellar Coltraine was better, he underplayed the role nicely.

Many have called director Richard Linklater’s technique of filming the same actors over 12 years unique or even revolutionary, but it’s been done before, but it has in the BBC Up documentary series when kids were filmed in 7 seven year intervals from childhood to adulthood, so Boyhood seems like a gimmick to me.  I’ve only seen one other Linklater movie, A Scanner Darkly, which was a live action film made to look animated, again gimmicky.  The pace was surprisingly quick for a 2 hour 45 minute movie, and he does get good performances from the actors, so direction is a mixed bag.  Linklater has an odd way of marking time in the film, through the introduction of movies, like Harry Potter or even a Funny or Die video by Will Ferrell, the introduction of the movies or products aren’t always in chronological order, Linklater could have been less sloppy in the way he marked time.  He does cover bigger topics like the Iraq war, or the 2008 election, but only in small snippets.

Boyhood:  Not child’s play.

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