Northampton Press

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Movie Review: 'Boyhood' will grow on you

Wednesday, September 3, 2014 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

"Boyhood" is really annoying.

The characters played by Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane are annoying.

The plotline and scenes in the film by writer-director Richard Linklater are annoying.

And yet, or because, "Boyhood" is about as annoying as real life, the film is a must-see.

That's because, in comparison, you may conclude your life is less annoying than that depicted in "Boyhood."

"Boyhood" is this summer's feel-good movie in reverse.

Be prepared. You may want to forego the large beverage. At two hours and 45 min., the length of "Boyhood" is also annoying, again, not unlike real life.

You may also want to bring Kleenex. I found myself reduced to, or perhaps expanded to, tears at several points during "Boyhood."

Just what is it that strikes emotional chords in "Boyhood"? It's the reality of the situations. Plus, the background story in the making of "Boyhood" is another reason to spend time with this film.

Linklater filmed "Boyhood" over the course of 12 years with the same cast. Unlike director Michael Apted's "7 Up" documentaries, which revisit a group of Brits every seven years since 1964 and are in the eighth installment, "Boyhood" has a fictional screenplay, albeit one that is very realistic, following the life of Mason, from age 5 to 18.

In "Boyhood," which was filmed on location in and around Austin and Houston, Tex., dad, who is not given a name (Ethan Hawke), is separated, then divorced, from his wife, known as Mom, who is also not given a name (Patricia Arquette).

The couple has a daughter, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, daughter of director Richard Linklater) and a son, Mason (Ellar Coltrane). While the storyline follows the meanderings of the parents, it concentrates on the son.

Dad is a weekend father, who regales his son and daughter with fun times at, for example, the bowling alley. He drives a souped-up Pontiac GTO muscle car and can't seem to hold a job.

Mom decides to go back to school and become a teacher. Husbands, girlfriends and wives come and go. Some stay.

One of the chief delights of "Boyhood" is in comparing your own parenting, marital or relationship experiences, or those of family and friends, with those of the film's characters. "Boyhood" is a checklist of what to do, and what not to do, in relationships, personal and careerwise.

Linklater has a varied, prodigious and impressive directing career, beginning with his independent film success, "Slacker," 1991, the title of which entered the lexicon, to other off-beat films ("Bernie," 2011; "Fast Food Nation," 2006; "Tape," 2001; "Waking Life," an animation feature, 2001; "SubUrbia," 2006; "Dazed and Confused," 1993; to his acclaimed collaboration trilogy with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy ("Before Midnight," 2013; "Before Sunset," 2004; "Before Sunrise," 1996) to mixed box-office and critical success with Hollywood studio films ("Me And Orson Welles," 2008; "A Scanner Darkly," 2006; "Bad News Bears," 2005; "School of Rock," 2003; "The Newton Boys," 1998).

"Boyhood" is even more impressive when you consider that Linklater began filming "Boyhood" in 2002, just after "Tape" (2001) and continued directing and writing many of all those other films, through "Before Midnight" (2013).

The dialogue in "Boyhood" is often plain-spoken. There are some life lessons, and bowling tips. "Life doesn't give you bumpers," dad tells his son.

Linklater keeps the material at somewhat of a distance. His documentary-style filming is that of cool detachment. The viewer becomes a drone-cam on the wall.

Characters exit scenes at one age and emerge in the next scene, often three years later. There are no supertitles telling the movie-goer the year. Video games, clothing, songs and even a "Harry Potter" movie sequel are sometimes the only markers. This demands close attention from the viewer and is actually a lot of fun.

Hawke is naturalistic, unassuming and touching in his portrayal of the kind of dad we've all known, or even been, at one time or another. Hawke is perfect in portraying imperfection.

Arquette, too, is amazing, in playing a beleaguered mom who seems to make unfortunate life decisions, yet has the gumption to carry on and not only survive, but triumph.

Lorelei Linklater is impressive in creating a not very likeable character.

"Boyhood" is Coltrane's film and he's superb as he goes through the most noticeable changes of any of the film's characters, emerging chrysalis-like, as a young man.

"Boyhood" might not be to every film-goers' liking. However, it is worth seeing for its multi-layered examination not only of teen-age angst, but of parenthood.

"Boyhood" has a certain nostalgic charm that will resonate with Millennialists and their parents.

Don't be surprised if "Boyhood" resonates with Oscar and garners nominations for Hawke and Arquette.

"Boyhood," MPAA Rated R (Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian.) for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use; Genre: Drama; Run time: 2 hrs., 45 min.; Distributed by IFC Films.

Credit Readers Anonymous: The "Boyhood" soundtrack includes 27 songs, or snippets of them, including "Split the Difference," written by Ethan Hawke and performed by Hawke and Charlie Sexton.

This column is dedicated to Richard Attenborough (1923-2014).

Box Office, Aug. 29: Weekend box office results were unavailable because of the early Labor weekend deadline.

Unreel, Sept. 5:

"The Identical," PG: Ashley Judd, Seth Green, Amanda Crew and Ray Liotta star in the drama about twin brothers separated at birth. One becomes a rock star.

"Forrest Gump," PG-13: The 1994 Oscar winning classic directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks in the title role gets a 20th anniversary re-release. Sally Field, Robin Wright and Gary Sinise co-star in the romantic drama.

"God Help The Girl," No MPAA rating: A young woman recovers by writing songs and joining a band in Glasgow, Scotland. Olly Alexander, Hannah Murray, Pierre Boulanger and Cora Bisset star in the musical romanantic drama.

"Frontera," PG-13: A sheriff searches for the killer of his wife. Ed Harris, Eva Longoria, Michael Pefia and Amy Madigan star in the western drama.

"Kelly & Cat," No MPAA rating: Juliette Lewis, Alysia Reiner, Cybill Shepherd and Margaret Colin star in the comedy drama about a suburban mom and a teen-age neighbor.

Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site,; the Times-News web site,; and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM, and, where they're archived. Email Paul Willistein: pwillistein@ You can follow Paul Willistein on Twitter and friend Paul Willistein on facebook.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes