After watching director Richard Linklater’s ambitiously brilliant Boyhood last night, my youngest son (16) said “That was the ultimate ‘coming of age’ film.”
Kids are smart.
Independent filmmaker deluxe Linklater has always known this. All the way back to Dazed and Confused (1993), through his most commercial hit to date, School of Rock (2003), this Austin-based artist has persistently leaned on adolescents and their complex lives for his narratives.
How unique. Not that he looks to “kids” for his stories, but that he cares enough about them to tell such thoughtful stories.
Especially with so many Hollywood hacks (Judd Apatow, Seth MacFarlane, Hangover guy, Todd Phillips, etc.) relentlessly bombarding and assaulting our public consciousness with extreme low brow, below the belt, overtly hyper-sexualized content.
Shameful exploitation and abuse of a free market system.
One poignant example of how Linklater not only invests in his young protagonist’s struggles and evolution is a surprisingly long counseling scene that takes place in a high school dark room. Mason, who we literally track from age 5 to 18, is working on developing some photographs when his teacher comes in and confronts him for missing another assignment. The reprimand goes well beyond your typical cinematic high school confrontation…because this is Richard Linklater…and he actually cares about his young protagonist.
The teacher, played wonderfully direct by a long time friend of mine, Tom McTigue, gives the budding young photographer valuable life lessons. “What do you wanna do?” he asks Mason. “Any dip shit can take pictures. Art. That’s special. What can you bring to it that no one else can?” He then gives Mason an assignment to shoot the upcoming football game. “It starts at 7:30, I want you to get there early, shoot a full card, 300 images, I want ’em downloaded, I want ’em sorted, I wanna see ’em first thing Monday morning.”
This is good stuff.
I mention that McTigue is a friend because I think it’s important to know that he is not only an extremely talented actor and comic, but a dedicated father and all-around swell guy. Casting is so important, and Linklater knows how to find just the right touch with his cast to bring his word-heavy text to life. He has always had this touch. Never compromising.
It is so rewarding to see that Linklater and his film were just awarded with three Golden Globe statues: Best Dramatic Motion Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress for Patricia Arquette. She’s excellent in this film. As is Ethan Hawke as Mason’s dad, who goes from a flighty, irresponsible, political lawn sign swiping, every-other-weekend knucklehead dad, to a tie-wearing, minivan driving, go-to guy reliable pop.
“You bowl a strike with the bumpers, it doesn’t mean anything,” his dad tells him. “Life doesn’t give you bumpers.”
There’s a moment in the beginning of Boyhood when Mason’s family is packing up to move out of the only home he has known. He grabs a paint brush and wipes over all of the incremental height lines drawn on a door jamb over the years. Lines that mark his growth as a physical human. It’s the kind of moment you need to be a parent to appreciate fully. How fast the years go. The bittersweet reality of literally watching your children grow up. Physically and emotionally.
That’s what Linklater set out to not only examine, but display for his audience. Actual, literal passage of time – more specifically, boyhood.
And no paint brush can wipe over it now.
That’s all I got. The less you read about this monumental achievement the better.
Boyhood is a film that needs to be experienced with fresh eyes and an appreciation for a master storyteller who walks his walk and talks his talk on a dizzyingly high tight rope with seemingly very little concern for the commerce bi-product of his art.
Bravo, Richard Linklater.
Birdman has stiff competition indeed.
Do not miss either film. Easily, two of the most highly original pictures since Forrest Gump (1994).