Boyhood worth the 12 year wait
Alright, alright, alright.
Richard Linklater has directed two films in my top ten. The eternally entertaining (and career making) Dazed and Confused, and the beautiful romance trilogy Before Sunrise, Sunset, Midnight (it’s a series, but I’m gonna refer to it as a single entity for the sake of cleanliness).
Because of this, I’ve anticipated the release of Boyhood for a very long time. It was always listed on IMDb as Linklater’s ‘Untitled 12 Year Project’ since I can remember. I used to scour the internet for details like a mum nit-checking their kid, frantic and forever hopeful, and I’d return fruitless. Nitless and dejected.
For those of you not familiar with the project, let me summarize:
Richard Linklater, phenomenal director specialising in coming-of-age, existential, poignant and funny films, was watching his 6 year old daughter dancing and singing around the hosue one day.
‘I’d love to capture that feeling of growing up,’ he thought. ‘But how do I do it? I don’t wanna center the story around one particular experience because that doesn’t encapsulate the feeling of growing up, so what do I do?’
His solution: he’d shoot 3-5 days per year for TWELVE YEARS, capturing the essence of growing throughout the life of a modern, normal kid. The good times, the bad times, the times that nobody think matter, a bit of all of it.
So that’s what he did.
I was around 14 when they started shooting this damn thing, and I was obsessed with Dazed. I’d watch it every Saturday with my friends. It helped us get in the mood for partying and encouraged us to do something stupid. Fast forward twelve years and Linklater’s given us Before Sunrise, SubUrbia, Waking Life, School of Rock, Before Sunset, Fast Food Nation, A Scanner Darkly, Me and Orson Welles (starring my good friend Zac Efron), Bernie and my favourite film of last year, Before Midnight.
Then I saw it, in the 2014 NZ International Film Festival program, Boyhood. I bought tickets with a large group and waited.
And scrolled through twitter, my heart lurching every time it was mentioned. Boyhood sat comfortably on 100% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and some industry friends had seen it at a super-mega-VIP screening to glowing reviews.
Eventually, the day dawned. Sunday 3rd August. Me and my girlfriend (ultra-aware of my excitement – poor girl has become nearly as sensitive as I to nearby popcorn chewers or chip-packet-rustlers or whisperers) walked into the Embassy Theatre. It was packed. People everywhere. Large sweaty bodies milling around sipping Americanos, twiddling their facial hair and nibbling popcorn.
Then the film played. The whole premise is risky. It’s different. The result is beautiful. Just under three hours of naturalistic acting and wavy emotional beats with no distinctive “plot”, but a strong and affecting “story”. Laughs are scattered throughout, especially when Mason is a boy, and there are some heavily dramatic scenes, through the most intense of which I could feel my heart racing in my ears. Linklater nails tension, something he’s not particularly known for.
The films starts Ellar Coltrane in the leading role, the boy whose boyhood we watch unfold and unravel. He’s mega-natural and charming, an adorable kid who grows into an awkward but likable man.
Patricia Arquette (who I’ve never liked – don’t tell anyone) is fantastic in her ‘single mother struggling with bad life decisions’ role. It’s easily the best I’ve ever seen her.
Ethan Hawke plays Ellar’s father and you could feel the audience yearning for more every time he left a scene. I dig him, he’s intelligent and cool (the guy wrote Before Sunset and Before Midnight with Linklater and co-star Julie Delpy and is coming fresh from an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay last year!).
Mason’s fast-talking and eye-rolling sister Samantha is played by Linklater’s real life daughter Lorelei, the former 6 year old dancing, singing, kooky kid who inspired the thought process behind the project.
Lorelei begged her dad to play the role when she was 6 and daddy acquiesced. Years later when entering her early teens, Lorelei wanted out and begged for her character to be killed off. Relax, this doesn’t happen, Lorelei regained enthusiasm in the project after those awkward image conscious, breast-growing years and lo, she seems to be a lot of people’s favourite thing about the film. Particularly as a young ‘un, she’s hilarious.
The look of Boyhood is perfunctory but lovely. Despite being shot over 12 years, the colours match almost seamlessly. The first half of the film has that beautiful, muted, slightly pastel patina reminiscent of great ’90s films, pulling me straight into Dazed and Confused nostalgia.
The soundtrack. The soundtrack. It kills it. It absolutely nails every period of time, encapsulating the feeling of that period of your life and pulling you back to it. I’m talking Britney Spears, The Hives, Coldplay, Blink 182, then we get into the indie hits that everyone felt they were original for listening to, Phoenix, Wilco, Kings of Leon, Foster The People… oh, and there’s a Sheryl Crow number in there too, that’s the only one that stumped me.
And maybe best of all…
Besides the amazing premise, killer soundtrack, gorgeous look and naturalistic acting, Boyhood references Harry Potter and The Beatles numerous times. I was in heaven. One of my favourite directors referencing Harry Potter is like putting crack in the chocolate sauce of a chocolate cake laced with ecstasy. And, as if he needed to push my euphoria even further, Ethan Hawke relishes these lengthy Beatles diatribes as he’s genuinely into them. I felt myself leave my body. Who needs drugs when you have pure escapism like this film?
The supporting cast are flawless too. There’s a wonderful Dazed and Confused cameo, a couple of cracker real world villains and this little number above, Zoe Graham. Linklater has a penchant for casting strange looking girls whose beauty grows on your brain like moss and Boyhood is no exception. But for once, I’m not gonna wax lyrical about pretty girls. Suffice it to say she’s a fantastic actress and plays her part as well as she plays my heart and let’s leave it there.
I love this movie. It’s a real head-spinning heart-twister. It comes to cinemas in NZ at the end of the month and I’ll be telling everyone who I respect to see it.
Richard Linklater, I can’t wait to shake your hand and thank you.
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