“Boyhood”: A Great Excuse To Cry In Public, If That’s Your Thing.

14 Aug


My husband and I finally got out to a movie a few weekends ago. Not to be braggy, but we’ve gone to three movies this year. Our record since having a kid was one movie a year, so I’m proud to say that we’ve tripled our average since 2013. Of the three movies, Boyhood is the only one that has inspired me to say words about it. But if you’re curious, here are my two sentence reviews of the other movies we saw:

Gravity – I was hoping that once she detached from George Clooney that Sandra Bullock would just wander aimlessly through space, probably ending in her space demise, and it would be kind of an Open Water psychological thriller type situation. Instead, a lot of unrealistic satellite hopping occurred, and she lived.

Grand Budapest Hotel – I thought this movie was great, but I’ve already talked up Wes Anderson enough, so there wasn’t much more to say. It was just about as Wes Anderson as you can get – that is something I could say.

I’m sure you’ve heard the buzz surrounding Boyhood because it’s kind of a groundbreaking concept. Richard Linklater, the director, started filming Boyhood in 2002 in Houston, Texas (his hometown), and shot for 12 years. The main character, Mason (played brilliantly by Ellar Coltrane, mostly because it didn’t seem like it required a lot of acting. I’m guessing he was often told to be like a kid his age, and he excelled at being his age), was cast when he was 6 years old, and the movie was shot intermittently, until he was 18.

The plot is very basic – you watch the twists and turns of the life of a young boy throughout his childhood and adolescence. The focus is mainly on Mason’s relationship with his family, which consists of: his mom (Patricia Arquette), who makes insanely poor relationship decisions that tend to dramatically affect Mason’s path in life; his dad (Ethan Hawke), who is immature and absent at first, but grows up and changes, just like his kids; and his older sister, Samantha, played by Richard Linklater’s real-life daughter, Lorelei Linklater (try saying that 10 times fast. I’m doing it in my head right now, and it’s very difficult. It still counts if you do it in your head, in case you were wondering). I’m not always the biggest fan of the Arquette clan, and their whole “thing,” but Patricia Arquette was perfect for this role. And Ethan Hawke was pretty much my favorite part of the movie, but more about that later.

Boyhood is essentially a rare glimpse into the development of a boy, from childhood to adolescence, taking us on a journey from cute to awkward, then back to cute, then back to awkward, ending on borderline handsome. It makes you feel like you received a special little gift by being able to see the character, and the actor, grow up before your eyes.

Boyhood Evolution

I watched Boyhood in two different ways – 20% was as a normal movie watcher, who was fascinated by the developmental stages of another human being. The other 80% was as a parent of an almost 2-year old, who felt like I should immediately exit the theater and watch my son sleep because he is aging as we speak, and I need to spend every waking (and sleeping) minute with him before he leaves me to go away to college and never looks back. Did this second way lead me to cry at the opening scene, which was just a young boy laying in the grass, waiting for his mom to come pick him up? Yes, it did. And did it also lead me to get home from the movie and rush upstairs to stare into my son’s crib, and then start crying because he suddenly looked so much taller than when I left 4 hours prior? Yes ma’am, it did.

Having a kid has ruined everything I watch. EVERYTHING. A commercial about an insurance company that shows a child growing up with good insurance? Ruined. Innocent movie where a kid gets yelled at unjustly? Ruined. Anything that remotely references death or dying in any context? Don’t even start with me, it was ruined before it started. So I went into this movie feeling terrified of my impending emotions. What if I cry so much that my throat closes? Can overwhelming sadness make you pass out? Will Dan share a Cherry Coke with me, or will he want gross Root Beer? A lot went through my head. It turned out that it wasn’t quite as emotional to watch as I set it up to be, so I hope that is helpful for all the hesitant emotionally unstables out there. But since the subjective viewing of this movie still managed to cloud my head with irrational thoughts, I think I should stick with my objective POV, just to be safe. So, here it is:

This movie was fascinating.

The storyline wasn’t mind-blowing, but the concept was incredibly unique. The aging was so seamless, you hardly noticed time passing (in a good way), and everyone grows and changes in normal, believable, and satisfying ways. Why hasn’t this been done a million times before, I ask you? I know there are documentaries where they film people over the period of many years. But why hasn’t anyone thought of making a movie like this, other than ol’ Linklater? Why didn’t I think of it, for that matter? “Hey, Reese! Interested in tagging along with me for a few 10 years and making a movie about it?”…is what I would say to Reese Witherspoon about making our movie Days of Wine and Reeses.

Legally Blonde

Be aware that this movie was 3 hours long, and it did lose me for a minute or two in the middle. I mean, if you’re going to make a 3 hour movie (which is mighty impressive when you’ve been filming for over a decade), it has to be filled to the brim with interesting, or I fade away. Mama’s tired. If I get bored for 15 minutes, I will have to work extremely hard to refocus. Now, hour one was awesome. I was in it to win it from ages 7-11. The age changes were handled so well, and so smoothly, that everything kind of blurred together in a perfect way. But then ages 11-15 happened, and meh, I got a little distracted. But they brought it back with ages 15-18, and it ended very much how I wanted it to. Kind of like my own life!

Ethan Hawke.

What the hell, man? Ethan Hawke is so underrated. I don’t know why I always forget about him, but I do. And then I watch one of his movies for 5 seconds and I remember that Ethan Hawke is such a talented actor. He was AMAZING in this movie. First of all, he played a deadbeat dad so well. He didn’t make you hate him. He made you feel like he is just a normal dude, like anyone else, who had kids too young, and is trying to figure his own shit out, just like his kids and ex-wife are. You root for him to make more of an effort and you truly believe that he loves these kids, he just doesn’t know yet how to be there or connect with them in the way they need.

One cool thing about Boyhood is that not only are we watching this little boy grow up, but we get to see actors that we are familiar with get even older than they already are. Ethan Hawke basically looked the same age for about 8 years. He was completely Ethan Hawke-y: a skinny, possibly 30-something fellow who looks like he smokes too many cigarettes and doesn’t eat enough food. But then all of a sudden, in year 9 or so, he finally catches up with himself and gets old. He starts filling out a bit, and his hair is graying, and he now, finally, appears to be the middle-aged man that he is (I should be careful with this middle-age talk, because I will be that in like 5 minutes). I wondered – is Ethan finally mature enough to keep up with his one true love, Uma Thurman? It helps that late in the movie he becomes a dad to a new baby, and marries a responsible adult woman, and they buy a mini-van (just like a grown-ass man with children is supposed to do).

Dad in a minivan

I was never really interested in those Before Sunrise and After Sunset and During Daylight Savings movies, or whatever, but now I want to watch all of them in a row because I am currently his biggest fan.*

*That is so insulting to his actual biggest fan, who has probably seen all of his movies, let alone, three of his most well-known movies. But has she or he seen Reality Bites?? Most likely, yes.

reality bites

I’m not positive that Boyhood would stand out in a lineup.

I do not want to be a h8ergrrrrl here, but my only question is this: if four other directors decided to create a movie with a similar concept, but different plots, would Boyhood be the best one of the bunch? I do not know. Like I said, the plot didn’t excite me much, so the real star of the movie was the age progression. But what if this was about a guy who was single from the ages of 25 to 40, and the subject was his dating life, and how it changed, over the span of 15 years? Now that shit sounds entertaining, through and through. “Hey, Shia. Whadda you say, me and you film a thing for a couple 15 years, and make a movie about it?”…is what I would say to former actor Shia LaBeouf about our movie 50+ First Dates.

Shia L

I have to admit that this is not an original thought. I listened to a review of Boyhood before I saw it on my favorite pop culture podcast, the Slate Culture Gabfest. Julia Turner, who I pretty much always agree with, made the point that while this movie is arguably brilliant, that it would be interesting to have other movies of the same genre to compare it with to see if it holds up as well. I’d like to think that I would have come to this conclusion without her commentary, but like our ability to judge Boyhood against other movies of its type, there is literally no way to know. It’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a mystery (okay, I stole quote that from my friends. This is really snowballing into a dark place).

I have a feeling that Boyhood actually would stand out because there is so much more that happens to a person, developmentally, from the ages of 6 to 18, than from, say, 25 to 40 (sorry to any 32 year-olds out there hoping to finally get taller, or grow more facial hair. You’re probably stuck with what you have). And not to bring it back again to being a parent, but this movie not only tugs at a parent’s heart, it rips it out of their chest and stomps on it. And I don’t think you could get that kind of reaction from a different set of ages. A different storyline? Maybe. But there was something very lovely about the simplicity of the plot, and that goes a long way. So don’t hate me for begging the question, just hate the game…is how I think that saying goes.

Now, let’s end by remembering how awesome Dazed and Confused is.

Dazed and Confused

Writing this post got me thinking about Richard Linklater movies, and that got me thinking about Dazed and Confused, and how much I love it, and then I couldn’t think about pretty much anything else.

So, in honor of the brilliant Richard Linklater, and his ability to so accurately and beautifully capture youth at both its best and its worst, here is one of my favorite scenes from one my favorite movies of all-time:



3 Responses to ““Boyhood”: A Great Excuse To Cry In Public, If That’s Your Thing.”

  1. mthep August 14, 2014 at 11:44 am #

    i have zero interest in this boyhood movie, but every time someone mentions it, i think, “oh, i should be watching dazed and confused right now.”

    alright, alright, alright.

  2. Alex August 18, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    Yes, you should! We just watched it last week. It was so good. Alright, alright, alright.


  1. This Is Why “Birdman” Deserved the Oscar…That It Won. | broadcouching - March 12, 2015

    […] was 100% positive that Boyhood (a movie I loved) was going to win Best Picture, so imagine my shock when I learned that Birdman, (a movie I loved […]

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