Boyhood (2014)

Edit Post
Post a Comment

Directed by Richard Linklater
Written by Richard Linklater

Rated R

Ellar Coltrane as Mason Jr.
Patricia Arquette as Olivia
Lorelei Linklater as Samantha
Ethan Hawke as Mason Sr.
Zoe Graham as Sheena
Libby Villari as Grandma
Marco Perella as Bill
Brad Hawkins as Jim

In a world so fast-paced, sometimes it’s easy to forget that life itself is most the fascinating and original enigma occurring in the now. Richard Linklater’s Boyhood gets that, and it’s a transcendent reminder of how interesting life truly is, with all of the triumphs and disappointments. Never does that feel more real than during the formative years of childhood through adolescence.

Linklater filmed the movie for several weeks every year, between 2002 and 2014. The cast remains intact, but changes and evolves as honestly as I have ever seen in a film. The hero of Boyhood is Mason Jr., as portrayed by Ellar Coltrane. He is a child of divorce, but it’s not a “broken” family. Mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) is a good woman. She wants the best for her children, which also includes her older daughter Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the director’s real-life daughter). Olivia also wants a life for herself, and she wants to realize her full potential.

Olivia makes many choices throughout the film that deeply impact her and the children. She moves the children from their early childhood home, because she wants to return to school to pursue a degree, tired of only making ends meet. The move seems logical. Her mother is a loving grandmother, and she is willing to help with the kids. Ethan Hawke is the father, absent for over a year, but he returns and seeks to participate more in the lives of his children. He and Olivia are divorced, but not bitterly. I have never been divorced, but I doubt any divorce is a happy one, contrary to Fran Drescher’s recent short-lived sitcom.*

Eventually, Olivia decides to marry her professor Bill (Marco Perella), who seems like a good but odd man. He has two children, and it seems like a good idea to blend the families, exposing the children to a two-parent home, with more siblings. But Bill is an alcoholic, and Olivia is now facing the prospect of once again making a major change that will impact her children.

Mason is growing up, of course, facing the usual adolescent benchmarks. School bullies, hormones, and discovering his talent for art (thus making him a wallflower of sorts). His family is changing, too. Older sister Samantha is a typical teenager, forgetting her mother’s requests to pick up her brother from school, enjoying college because of all the cute boys in her co-ed dorm, etc. Olivia has a pattern of picking the wrong men, who seem right at the time. The insecurities and demons of these men is numbed by alcoholism, something a college psychology professor should see and avoid, right? Through Olivia’s experiences, we are reminded that we are all infallible, subject to repeating the same mistakes. It takes a strong individual to learn from mistakes, move on, and continue learning from new mistakes. This makes the world go ’round.

Mason Sr. would be a frustrating man-child to try to raise a family, especially at a young age. Many men seem less adept to honing in on their mature paternal instincts as opposed to many women. My grandparents were divorced in their early 20s, and my biological grandfather was probably unsuited for fatherhood at the time (from all I have heard, anyway). But he was a good man, flawed and imperfect, and he later remarried and had another child. I believe he got it better the second time around. Timing missed the mark his first time around. Mason Sr. is reminiscent of this example. We watch him struggle to be the cool dad, and he evolves into a man (in late 30s or early 40s) as a man finally ready to commit to a woman he loves, and he gets a second chance at fatherhood.

Boyhood is a coming of age film, for sure; but it’s so much more. It’s about the American dream, or the idea of what the American dream should be, according to all we have been taught. It’s about family, and decisions that may have yielded difficult consequences, but otherwise there would have been stagnant unhappiness. Linklater presents the full scope of how life should bring happiness, yet a constant state of euphoria would stunt our development and experience as we move toward the people we hope to become.

Coltrane is effective and believable as the hero. There is a little Holden Caulfield in him, but mostly he is just a regular kid, growing up in regular circumstances. He doubts his ability to vocalize his thoughts articulately, but do we ever really do so at such a young age? Boyhood is entertaining reality, while films like Easy A are the entertaining fantasy.

I especially liked Arquette’s performance here. I related to her. I felt like I understood her. Arquette has always been an interesting actress, but most of her acclaim has been on the small screen (she won an Emmy for the long-running drama Medium). I think Boyhood should change that. She’s wonderful throughout the entire film, but there are two moments that were among the most moving scenes of the year. How do most mothers feel when all of their children have left the nest? Right, and Arquette nails it. There is an Oscar nomination for her in this performance.

A melancholy epiphany occurred to me during a scene when Mason Jr. and his girlfriend are eating queso at a small diner in a college town. It’s 3 a.m., and they are discussing “next year,” like it’s so far away. College seemed like a lifetime away at 16 or 17, and the college experience seemed to exists in a time capsule, between the ages of 18 and 21. Now, it’s days gone by. I was Mason Jr., (not specifically; my sister is younger and my parents are still married). But I felt like an outsider, like I didn’t fit in. I hated some of my parents’ decisions. But life was good, and life is still good. I feel a little wiser after seeing this film. And a little dumber, too. Such is life.

* I like Fran Drescher very much, and I even found Happily Divorced to be a pleasant diversion. I am simply stating that I have never met anyone who indicated divorced is a pleasant experience.

No comments:

Post a Comment