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Peacemaker Reviews - "Boyhood"

The Movie Hole

Peacemaker Reviews - "Boyhood"

JJ Mortimer

Richard Linklater's Boyhood is so boring it makes Terrance Malick's The Thin Red Line look like Michael Bay's Transformers.  There is so much of nothing really going on in this movie that the narrative structure is dwarfed by the complexity of a Clifford: The Big Red Dog book with pages missing.  What at first was an amusing concept - take a real-life actor, age six-years old, and tell a story as the actor himself ages to eighteen-years old - turns out to prove the theory that "an interesting concept an entertaining movie it does not make".  That awkwardly-sounding sentence has more substance and nuance than Boyhood has in its overlong, two-hour and forty-five minute run time.

I shouldn't have expected anything less, but I gave the film an honest shot given how highly rated it was amongst other critics and with its smorgasbord of award recognition.  But, given that the film was directed by the same man who brought us one of the only films to make me legitimately fall asleep twice while trying to watch it (the homework-feeling, transcendental bore-fest Waking Life), I knew I was correct in my original assumption about an hour in when the only conflict the movie presented the audience with was entirely resolved with nearly an hour-and-a-half left to play.

On an upside, Patricia Arquette is pretty good as Mason's mom.  Her and Ethan Hawke (who plays the estranged other half of the kid's divorced biological parents) are the only two good actors in the film, but a huge portion of Hawke's performance is relegated to Linklater's insistence upon having him spew his political agendas toward his kids and the audience (a strange nuance, given that toward the latter part of the film Hawke seems to transform from liberal to more conservative-leaning family values, which kind of contradicts anything his character was desperately trying to do earlier on in the film).  Arquette, on the other hand, gets more emotional baggage as she tries to wrestle with the supposed hardships of raising two kids, one of which is a boy who goes from an appealing, typically-average little kid to boring, emo teenager with literally nothing interesting to say.  When neither of the film's veteran stars are on screen, the acting is atrocious.  In a particular scene where some young men are trying to convince a teenage Mason and his friend to drink beer and screw hookers (or something of the like), the dialogue reading is so god-awful bad that my finger was itching the mute button as though the same button would release the death juice into my IV and end me of this chalkboard-grating ear pain.

If this film was cut to about one hundred minutes, I might have bought into it a little more.  Linklater's vision for what he wanted to do as a film making gimmick was admirable, but when your main subject turns out out to be a boring, disrespectful, unappealing hipster douchebag and is forced upon us for several minutes, what we are left with is a semi-film without a purpose, and a piece of work that can arguably be called a film.  Is it weird that at a particular point I was actually HOPING someone would get shot, stabbed, drowned or otherwise killed for the sake of having some actual fucking conflict in this motion picture?

I guess I'm just a sucker for receiving entertainment from my movies.  This kind of pretentious crap doesn't usually fly in my boat, unless there is something of value to be taken from it.  Boyhood was an admirable effort as a film making stunt filmed over a twelve-year period, but in the end we aren't really given anything of substance on a narrative level.  I hate to say this about any movie, but Boyhood really was mostly a waste of time, and even more aggravatingly so given its unnecessary epic run time.  If I was a student film making instructor and a student submitted this as their thesis, I still would have given this "film" a C+ at best with many written notes exclaiming, "EDIT EDIT EDIT, for Christ's sake!"

The Thin Red Line was often considered by some I know to be the longest contemporary film about "nothing", but at least that film had multiple poetic themes strewn about and truly transcendental thoughts that its director, Terrance Malick, had a grasp upon and understood.  Richard Linklater, on the other hand, attempts the same concepts as Malick but doesn't seem to give a lick about visual prowess or charismatic film creativity, while often choosing to show men in leadership positions (notably a teacher and a member of the armed forces) as alcoholic, power-controlling assholes.  He is a fifty-four-year old man who seems like he's still exercising a student film maker's need to impress audiences with an "idea" of a film, rather than entertain upon them the thought of a purpose for it.

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My favorite quote from the film that, quite humorously, sums up everything:

"Holy crap, I'd rather have my balls clawed off than ever sit through anything like that ever again."