The year’s most talked about movie from one of my favorite directors is “Boyhood.” You have to see it for the singularly amazing experience of watching the kids age onscreen throughout the course of the film. Director Richard Linklater filmed the footage over the course of 12 years, and the result is an extraordinary compression of time before our eyes.
A child named Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and his sister (Lorelei Linklater, daughter of the director) are siblings growing up in Texas with divorced parents, played by Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette. The drama of the story is as small and as big as the drama of our own ordinary lives. A haircut looms as large as a divorce, and reading Harry Potter with your mother is as important as moving to a new town.
“Boyhood” has been almost universally praised for its amazing fidelity to real life, but I can’t help but feel that it is a bit overhyped. The scenes between Ethan Hawke and his kids are really wonderful; their conversations are memorable and beautiful, and his characters’ evolution is as interesting to watch as that of his son.
This only heightens the failures in Arquette’s role, both in how (I assume) they were conceived and in her execution. Perhaps this is because Linklater is a male and a father rather than a mother, but the portrayals were terribly lopsided. When Hawke reappears in his kids’ lives, Arquette is annoyed because their time with him is all fun, while she has to make them do their homework and bathe.
This is a compelling reality of divorced parenting that I have considered before, but the disparity extends to the actual film. Hawke is written as cool and smart, while Arquette is passive and hysterical, making many bad decisions throughout her life. The real problem, however, is that Arquette is just not a very good actress. She took a contrived role and made it worse.
It’s interesting that Richard Linklater chose to make a film this way, because the experience of watching his “Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight” films has struck me in a similar way, in the experience of time passing they capture. Specifically, I was young and naïve when stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy were in the first film, and, of course, have continued to somewhat correspond as they have grown through the trilogy. A lot of kids probably feel the same way about “Harry Potter.”
Despite its faults, “Boyhood” is compelling in a truly authentic way, even if occasionally I felt I was truly living through those 12 years in real time. It is, wonderfully, the opposite of so many other films, like those horrid motion capture cartoons with one actor playing every role. This film drops the viewer in a different kind of uncanny valley at times, in which you see yourself all too well.
“Boyhood” is now playing at the Crescent Theater, Carmike Wynnsong 16, Carmike Jubilee Square 12, Carmike Wharf 15.