Boyhood: Because Life Doesn’t Give You Bumpers

Greetings and salutations movie fans! Last night I went to The Little to watch one of my most anticipated films of the year: “Boyhood”. Please everyone before I get started check this out in theaters. Support Linklater’s films; give this man more money so he can continue to create cinematic instant-classics.

I’ve seen damn near everything that Richard Linklater has made. When I first started writing, I believed that I had stumbled upon a “Linklater Universe” that Boyhood fit into. Unfortunately for me, and conspiracy theorists everywhere, it just doesn’t work. Unless you are willing to invent elaborate story lines not mentioned in either film. The characters in the film are super cagey about what Ethan Hawke has been doing the year and half that he is out of Texas. Perhaps I thought, he was in Europe meeting Julie Delpy! It all fits until I started looking back through the script. I had remembered one scene from Before Sunset that immediately caught my attention:

Jesse: Do you have kids?

Celine: Yes, two –

[gasps]

Celine: Shit!

Jesse: What?

Celine: I left them in the car! With the windows rolled up! It was six months ago! Think they’re okay?

[laughs]

You tend to see things the way you want to see them when you believe you are having some great epiphany. There are a great many similarities between Ethan Hawke’s character in Boyhood and Before Sunset. He plays guitar, he’s foolhardy, hopelessly romantic, AND he’s in a loveless marriage. Unfortunately, what I failed to remember was that it was Celine who is joking about her kids; not Jesse. Before that little joke, Celine asks Jesse about his kids. He tells her about his son “Hank”, without mentioning having a daughter. The true conspiracy theorist in my mind went through and said, “Okay well maybe he used a pseudonym from a book that he saw on the flight over. Perhaps he’s been lying to Celine the whole time. Maybe he invented this fake life for himself to escape his own miserable reality back in the US.” The problem with this whole scenario is that it’s just too implausible. He’d have to lie about too much; eventually we’d catch him, or she’d catch him or both. Alas, my Linklater universe theory has holes that even Lexington Steel couldn’t fill.

Boyhood lived up to every expectation I had. It was a raw unfiltered view of Texas life as we follow the family and observe their struggles. Ethan Hawke was magnificent and was able to capture all the magic (and more) that he had in Before Sunset 20 years ago. The young boy played by Ellar Coltrane was remarkably normal. We follow him going to school, being bullied, kissing girls, drinking and finally going off to college.

Recently, I re-watched one of my favorite films, “Dead Poets Society”. Mr. Keating, played by Robin Williams encourages his students to “seize the day:”

The notion at the end of Boyhood was touching. A young girl, after a drug-fueled hike through the dessert, opines that, “Perhaps it should be the other way around.” Perhaps instead of seizing the moment, we should let the moment seize us. The greatest gift that Linklater gives us with this film is that he stops and takes a minute to look around. He impresses upon the audience the importance of just “looking around every once in a while:”

Linklater was able to draw on his vast body of work that made anyone familiar with his other films quite comfortable. Long gone are the days of vignettes; comprised of wild caricatures with zany existential ideas espousing Nietzsche on the streets of Austin:

Instead, Linklater demonstrates in the film that people can just be. He can create magic from those otherwise innocuous moments. This return to simplicity was refreshing. It was also nice to see him return to Austin with its copious amounts of weirdo’s (yes, you are all a bunch of goddamn weirdo’s; but that’s OKAY!).

Another feature of the film that I enjoyed was that it acted like a bit of a time capsule. I grew nostalgic at the sight of the iMac computer that Mason used because we had those in my schools growing up. I had fond memories of flip phones, and the first Halo game. Linklater’s use of technology as a springboard for Mason to establish some of his own philosophy was brilliant. Instead of using the one-dimensional diatribe we’ve seen in the past from Linklater; we witness dialogue. Mason and his girlfriend confabulate about what it means to be “off the grid”. The repartee between the two of them as they mock each other about their technology use was apropos.

I think what made this movie so incredible for me was Linklater’s ability to mold moments into lessons. We’re there for the cringe-worthy contraception talk in a bowling alley. We witness Mason break up with his high school girlfriend. We even witness the embarrassment that occurs when you’re staying with a friend and their roommate walks in. It’s just a series of moments, and milestones; beautiful moments, and pained milestones.

I wish that this movie had come out as I was about to start my journey to college. I could have garnered valuable information and life lessons from the characters in this film. At one point early in the film, Mason Jr. is complaining that they aren’t using bumpers when they are bowling. Mason Sr. replies that, “Life doesn’t give you bumpers!” Its little moments like these that the audience can “Suck the marrow out of life without choking on the bone”.

Like every movie, though this one did have a few flaws; some of the character development was spotty at times. At the end of the film at Mason’s high school graduation there was some person who kept making obnoxious comments. Someone in the theater vocalized what everyone was thinking, “Who the hell is this guy?” It turned out to be the brother of Mason Sr. I don’t believe his character was necessary. An introduction at the beginning of the party, or maybe if that kid with Mason had said, “Who’s that guy?” would have gone a long way. Additionally the woman playing the grandma was inconsistent throughout the film.

From what I’ve read, Linklater wanted to capture a small sliver of American life with this film. He does that magnificently, it’s as though he’s taken a slice of the great American pie, cut a small piece, and served it to the rest of us. Boyhood is a monumental achievement that I will be revisiting for years to come. Movies like this are a once in a decade event; missing this while it’s in theaters would be a sin of which I could not forgive myself.

As always here are some reviews that I enjoyed:

Rogerebert.com

Seattle Times

The Detroit News

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