Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Boyhood under glass
I recently saw and enjoyed Boyhood, but it was the first of this year's Best Picture-nominated films to feel a little bit like a homework assignment to me (I thought I would feel that way about Selma, but I found that film to be consistently riveting, but more on that later).
Boyhood covers 12 years in the life of Mason (and actually his mother, father, and sister, too), and the interesting thing about the movie is that the director, Richard Linklater, actually took 12 years to make the movie, so we see Mason and the other characters growing up before our eyes. It's pretty astonishing, but the movie's strength is also its weakness: Richard Linklater is a subtle, thoughtful filmmaker, so the issues that Mason deals with over the course of his early life are the kinds of subtle, normal ones that all kids deal with as they grow up. And subtle isn't always, well... riveting.
For example, Mason gets bounced between his divorced parents, has to deal with the idiosyncrasies of a couple of stepfathers, gets bullied, has to eventually figure out what interests him as a potential career, etc., etc. It's all handled well, but the almost complete lack of any big drama- even broad, obvious, predictable big drama- is missed a little. And this is especially true because the movie's running time closes in on three hours.
We actually watched Boyhood at home, as an On Demand cable rental, so we had the benefit of being able to take the occasional break to hit the bathroom or pour more wine. But even that only somewhat distracted us from the long running time, so I have sympathy for those who saw Boyhood in a theater and maybe found it a little challenging to, well... completely enjoy.
Honestly, though, it's a very good movie, and one that's equally about the trials of being a single mom and the challenges facing 21st century families as it is about one boy's experiences growing up. Just be prepared for a long film that provides a gentle payoff following a long accumulation of details rather than an intense (or even semi-intense) story laced with constant drama.