Coming-of-age films are nothing new.
Boy starts out young and naïve, things happen, boy matures, end of film.
Filmmakers have always circumnavigated lengthy time jumps in these sort of movies by casting multiple actors to play the same part at different ages.
In the case of the Golden Globe-winning drama “Boyhood,” director Richard Linklater took the slow approach, filming segments of his movie over the past 12 years as young actor Ellar Coltrane grows up in the film around him.
The film, which missed out on the Cinematic Considerations 10 best films of 2014, is worth a second look following an initial review in September.
A lot is made of the 12-year filmmaking process, and indeed, “Boyhood” and Linklater need to be commended for their dedication to the project.
There certainly isn’t another film like “Boyhood,” but that fact alone doesn’t make the film any good, just unique.
Imagine a film where events feel like they’re happening around the main character rather than to the character, where the character doesn’t really experience any growth or development besides physical appearance and you’d have Mason, “Boyhood’s” defacto protagonist.
A voyeur of his own life, Mason idly watches as things happen around him. Life affects him only peripherally.
“Boyhood” is the “Seinfeld” of cinema; it’s a film about nothing.
You can easily see Coltrane becoming disinterested in the filmmaking process throughout the years, as his character Mason becomes disillusioned from the world.
Nothing can be done about the film’s significant pacing issue. “Boyhood” cannot shortchange any of the 12 years of filming, making it difficult to leave scenes on the cutting room floor. The film does not move crisply from year to year and two hours into the film, “Boyhood” can easily leave the viewer exhausted past the point of enjoyment.
There are moments where “Boyhood” rises above its 12-year gimmick and provides quality scenes — most notably sequences featuring Marco Perella’s daring portrayal of Mason’s first alcoholic step-father attempt to propel “Boyhood” in an actual direction.
Ethan Hawke offers up the film’s best performance and shows the most character development as the frequently absent hippie father turned square dad.
Groundbreaking not for the content, acting or cinematography, “Boyhood” is heralded for its actual 12-year filming time, allowing characters to naturally age physically on screen.
There’s been a large amount of groupthink among critics who feel compelled to congratulate Linklater’s determination and creative vision to attempt such a different style of filmmaking that valid critiques of the film’s actual merits have been largely absent.
These reviews of the film suffer from the same lack of individuality that Mason bemoans to his girlfriend Sheena during a road trip late in the film.
Set aside the time element of “Boyhood” and what is left? Twelve separate short films loosely tied together based on common characters. Is that truly noteworthy?
The film is a kitsch time capsule that elevates the mundane for two hours and then laments how boring the journey was.
When Mason prepares to go off to college, his mother Olivia (Golden Globe-winner Patricia Arquette) cries for her own lost life as much as the departure of her son.
“I just thought there’d be more,” she laments.
For “Boyhood,” a critically acclaimed, ground-breaking film, I just thought there’d be more.