“It’s been months since I left Boyhood feeling unfulfilled and dissatisfied with nearly a three-hour viewing, and while I’ve let the film digest, I still don’t get the over-hyped appeal.
With a nearly perfect 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (only five critics out of 258 dared to negatively review) and a 100% ranking at Metacritic (ranks as the highest scored new release for at least this century at Metacritic), New York Times film critic A.O. Scott hails Boyhood as “one of the most extraordinary movies of the 21st century.” And I’m left here wondering…why?
The film was recently awarded best picture at the Critics Choice Award and the Golden Globes, and it’s the frontrunner for best picture at the Oscars. Director Richard Linklater explains “I wanted the whole film to feel like a memory–how you might feel if you looked back on your life.” But, the memory isn’t compelling. A straight, white boy grows up in a middle-class family to become an arts student. Groundbreaking, no?
Director Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Before Trilogy) chronicles 12 year’s in the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) where we literally watch him mature on screen. Linklater’s 12-year filming project touches groundbreaking territory using the same cast transforming and molding the characters based on the development of the child actors. The film includes notable performances by Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, but those performances couldn’t save a film that I thought coasted on neutral for the entirety of the movie. Sure, it’s a glimpse into one boy’s life, the chaos of divorced parenthood, the struggles and inadequacy of “finding yourself” … but the ups and downs of the movie are minimal while the plot flatlines for three hours.
Did I mention anything outside of exalting the nearly perfectly reviewed film is not only frowned upon, but nearly taboo in the circle of critics? Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan chose to not pen his lukewarm feelings toward the heavily lauded Boyhood and shied away unleashing any negativity toward the highly-praised film. Turan, like myself, second-guessed his opinion wondering “had I missed something?” or “did I not get the big picture?” What exactly are we missing here?
Turan later revealed his full opinion toward the movie, but moreso in a sense of how lonely in can be to feel like the only one raining on the Boyhood parade.
Jason Raymond at NolaDefender not only disliked the film, but quite possibly loathes the existence of the so-called “masterpiece.”
“Blessed Lord Almighty is Boyhood bad: nearly three hours of scene after scene going nowhere powered by tedious, superficial chit-chat. At the two-hour, twenty-six minute mark, Ethan Hawke gets asked “What’s the point?” by-then-former-child-actor Ellar Coltrane (perhaps it was the other way around– I could barely focus on the film by this point). I can’t give you a memorable quote in response to this all-too-valid question, and it’s a dull, uninspired scene.
Yeah, he shot this over 12 years, but don’t turn director Richard Linklater into Michael Apted. The UP Series, where Apted filmed the lives of actual British people since they were schoolchildren in the mid-60s, offers real emotion, surprising twists, and, of course, the basis for some limited evaluation of the nation in which the children live. For all of Linklater’s indie cred, Boyhood represents nothing more than a 12-year vanity project consisting of Hollywood pablum where young Mason, Jr. grows up into a stereotypical sensitive artist with contra-mainstream ideals (and, eventually, killer looks, hair, and love interests).
If you are going to make this kind of effort to create a project, shouldn’t you have something original to say? Linklater and company offer only ABC’s Afterschool Special-quality insights all through Boyhood. The drama centers on drinking, abusive step-fathers, biological fathers trying to connect during visitation, the angst of being white and lower-middle-class, the horrors of George W. Bush and his racist supporters, new schools with girls and bullies, and such. The whole real-life passage of time angle, celebrated by publicists looking to sell tickets to the gullible, echoed by critics beaten senseless by violent CGI scenes from Godzilla to Planet of the Apes, can’t make up for the superficial script, the lack of editing (a.k.a Linklater’s cinematic style), and performances that are merely okay. What is the point of seeing a child grow up to a college arts student? Linklater has no idea. Bill Cosby had more of an agenda sending Denise and Theo to university. Dead Poets Society had more to say about youth and art.”
The greatest accomplishment of Boyhood is Linklater’s 12-year span of filming, but the composition lacks to inspire or reflect as it merely displays a collection of dull and tedious memories. To put it plainly, Boyhood‘s script is as basic as they come. There are no memorable lines nor any overachievements in acting. Patricia Arquette’s alleged Oscar-worthy scene huffing and puffing and “hoping for more in life” was as bland as Ellar Coltrane’s expressionless reaction to her flustered, teary moment. Is this really the 12 Years a Slave of 2014? Or does this resonate the same way with me as Silver Linings Playbook addressed mental illness two years ago? Absolutely not. Maybe it’s a lack of personal connection that deters me from sipping the Boyhood milkshake, but it’s undeniable that this is a far cry from being hailed the Citizen Kane of my generation (yes, some critics have admit that it has eclipsed the great Citizen Kane).
With Twitter constantly trending about how white washed the Oscar nominations, why isn’t anyone talking about Boyhood? I appreciate Linklater’s ambitious project, and I’ll be satisfied when he wins the Academy Award for best director, but I want to be in awe by a film that wins best picture. Avatar broke tremendous boundaries with it’s visual effects years ago, but it was The Hurt Locker that won that year tapping on our backs about war being the ultimate drug. That’s a feeling. Maybe next year.