Saturday, January 24, 2015

Movie Watch: A few quick words about "Boyhood," a film unlike anything you've likely seen -- or likely ever will


Divorced dad Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke) visits with his son, Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane), and daughter, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), at the start of the 12-year journey chronicled in Richard Linklater's Boyhood -- unlike anything you're likely ever to have seen.

by Ken

Since the question comes up so often in writer-director Richard Linklater's Boyhood, let me say upfront that yes, I had done my homework when I slipped out of the house late this afternoon for the long trek to Astoria (Queens) and a Museum of the Moving Image screening of the film. I was so curious about it that during its commercial run I came this close to paying box-office prices to see it. To make matters worse, I had missed my shot at an earlier MOMI screening, so when I saw this one on the schedule, I determined not to miss it.

I think I'll want to write a little about the film, but I have to think about what I can say without giving away any more about it than you probably already know, which is already TMI. As I've mentioned before, this has been on my mind increasingly with movie reviews -- I don't know how reviewers can avoid giving away information they feel is necessary just to give readers enough to go on in deciding whether they should see a film, but really and truly, when the lights go down and the picture comes up, I'd like to know as little as possible.

Still, as you surely already know, Linklater made Boyhood over a 12-year period, and chronicles the lives of his central characters -- a mother (Patricia Arquette), her ex-husband (Ethan Hawke), and their nine-year-old daughter Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the director's daughter) and seven-year-old son Mason (Ellar Coltrane) -- over, yes, a 12-year period. Just as a technical feat, this kind of boggled my mind, and I would have been intrigued to see the film just to watch this 12-year process unfolding. Where else are we going to see such a thing?

I've heard the reaction that beyond this feat, the picture isn't especially interesting, though I can't say I'd heard a reaction quite as lamebrained as this one, in the Amazon comments, with the title "Wow! What a boring movie!"
Boring. It's a lifetime movie without the tears or emotion. It is liking watching a home movie of someone else's kid growing up. No plot. no emotion. no suspense, no murders, no brawls, no sex, no terminal illness, no good/bad guy, no victories, no conspiracy, no humor. It's a whole lot about nothing.

This movie is too long and you keep thinking something must happen to one of the characters, but nothing happens. You will not be glued to the screen with this one, you can miss a hour of the film and not miss anything, you can go on a nature break, get a snack, cook dinner and eat without stopping the movie, in fact I recommend you do not stop the movie - let it play and go do something else.
This gives a person sudden unexpected respect for the people who get to decide which movies to make, people I don't usually have much respect for. But when you consider that these are the people they have to sell those movies to, God bless 'em. And in a wacky game of "Can you top this?," an even bigger jackass added the comment:
What a great review! Laughing my rear off! "Let it play and go do something else." Classic!
It's not clear whether this lamebrain, before laughing his rear off, actually saw the movie, and so had the slightest idea what he was exercising his butt about.

This is admittedly a long movie, though the action is so compressed, given its actual chronological span, that I found it moving way too fast. However, I can indeed imagine people who wouldn't find Boyhood of interest. The two categories of people I have imagined so far are:

* People who have found for themselves satisfactory answers to the range of basic questions that might be grouped up in the catch-all questions: Life? Time?

* People to whom such questions have never occurred.

In case you haven't gotten the idea, let me say that Boyhood isn't like anything I've ever seen, and I was overwhelmed. As soon as I finish writing this non-review, I'm going to go to a suitable website and order myself the Blu-ray, which I see comes on two discs. I hope that means there are lots of extras. I'm glad I got to see it the first time on a big screen, but it should survive transfer to the small screen.

Until I figure a way to write more about the movie without giving any more away, let me just say that even if you wind up not liking it, you should probably give it a shot, because if you're at all susceptible to the material, it's a movie you won't forget.



At 11:09 PM, Anonymous Bil said...

Thanks Ken, appreciate the rec and no spoilers.

At 11:33 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

You got it, Bil. I'm feeling more and more strongly about this with both movies and TV -- that we've just learned too damn much going into our only opportunity to experience the thing fresh.

And in the case of Boyhood in particular, when you consider how much of their lives the people who made this film invested in creating this journey of discovery, I just hate to spoil that journey for prospective viewers.

Goodness knows there's a huge amount to talk about with this picture, but I think the discussions need to happen among people who've seen the damned thing.


At 6:52 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I didn't got the chance to watch this movie but being recognize as one of the Hollywood Movies that Took Too Long to Make and one of the longest movie ever made. I was like "Oh..this movie must really be something!" Yeah, I heard a lot saying that the movie was quite boring, but I think I need to see this first before saying anything. For the fact, that this movie already received a lot of awards and recognition then this maybe something really special. I'll buy DVD's now!!


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