Gimmicky Arthouse

Boyhood (2014)
A Review By Ben Hunter
4 Out Of 5 Stars


The fact that there’s a neat concept surrounding the making of the movie is more than the experience of the actual story itself, which gives an in vain feeling. 


Mason, a young boy goes through puberty, has crushes on girls, meets new friends, learns the definition of “family” as he experiences his major events in life through a broken home as his parents go through a divorce.  So we follow Mason over the course of 12 years as he goes through what broken families go through, heartache, anguish, pain, joy, love, all tied up in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. 

Oh, and the entire time Mason is the same actor (Ellar Coltrane).

Let me clarify, for 12 years, Linklater filmed the same actors progressing over that course of time.  Every year, for 12 years, everyone would meet for a couple of days and film a few more scenes in the story; tracking the characters’ progression as their family shifts and changes due to the divorce.  So we see Mason as the same actor, same person, getting older, all in the same film, without make up, visual effects, etc. 

Kind of neat huh?

Well, it came across to me as a wholesome story that depicts real life.  As if someone just captured a real family with the events.  So to me this warrants a lot of respect and a high rating.  However, there was no “spark” or nitch to make this a well-developed narrative.  It was a good one, but nothing to make it stand out as “oh my gosh, this was so amazing, go see this immediately!”  There was nothing to take me out of my normal world and into a fantasy one that every great film does.  I was placed back into real life watching a struggling family.  I exited the theater saying, “yeah that was pretty good, not great, but still good.”

There was great dialogue on Linklater’s part (who wrote as well as directed), nicely executed scenes, some with high emotionality like with the various breakups, which warrants an excellent review with Patricia Arquette’s performance as the mother.  I enjoyed the philosophical discussions about humanity and interesting perspectives on life.  But I couldn’t help but think of it as “gimmicky arthouse”.  A neat little concept to sell the film when just hiring actors to age the actors over the course of time, all shot in a normal manner over the course of say a month or so, could’ve done just as good of a job if not better.  Which makes me as a filmmaker feel bad with an in vain feeling; the “good but not great” feeling makes me feel that different actors to shoot in a month and not the same ones for 12 years.  

Weird, because “gimmicky” is something I’d naturally associate with a blockbuster, commercial, overall fun kind of movie and not something artsy like this that's making an Oscar run.  Had there been, and this is going to sound condescending, but a “gimmick to clear this gimmick”, something that took me into the fantasy world, the thought of a “gimmick” in any fashion would be no where in my mind, not in the slightest. 

It was cool seeing the Ellar Coltrane age as a real life person in front of my eyes.  I liked how Linklater cast his own daughter (Lorelei Linklater) to play Mason’s sister.  It was really nice to see the Hamlet, Before Sunrise, Lord of War, and Training Day young version of Ethan Hawke; films he was just finished with or releasing during the process of this film.  But with just a “good wholesome story” with nothing much else to it, a story that got me too antsy by the end as it was just way too long (Talk about butt hurt and thankful that close to 3 hours was FINALLY over!), I’m in no hurry to see it again; “gimmicky” not “beautifully done”.  Which gives me the in vain feeling.  The traditional way of filmmaking would’ve perfectly sufficed. 

A nice job though, to put things into perspective.  This film promotes happiness as that's the most important part.  Which is why I'm definitely on the side of "love" and not "dislike" or worse, "hate" with this film.  It definitely needed to be made.  Richard Linklater is still very much one of my favorite filmmakers.  We all have to take chances as artists. 

Drama, 165 Minutes, R
Written & Directed by: Richard Linklater
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater 

Popular Posts