ONCE IN A GREAT WHILE a movie comes along that makes all the other movies around look bad. “Boyhood” does that. In fact, after you see it you’ll likely wonder just what the heck all those other movies are doing with their silly car chases, their zombies and vampires running around eating people and those exploding space aliens in body armor, when really all they had to do was show us a life being lived that isn’t ours and we’d be happy to sit there, rapt and enthralled, for two hours and forty-five minutes that go by in a blink of an eye. In that way, too, “Boyhood” is just like life.
Alas, unlike most ordinary lives and most ordinary movies, there’s a gimmick that’s got everyone talking: Director Richard Linklater shot the film over a dozen years, using actors who showed up for a week of work despite whatever else was happening in their off-screen lives. So we see them aging authentically instead of just pretending to under a distracting layer of Hollywood makeup. Naturally it’s quite convincing, being real.
Besides the boy of the title — who we see morph from an adorable, mop-topped six-year-old into a bearded 18-year-old starting college — his mom, dad, sister and a few chosen friends and relatives all get older, too. There are no spinning classes or facelifts down at this level of society, where paying the bills and drinking too much are the biggest concerns. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke play the parents who had two children together but shared nothing else. He’s a lovable, ne’er-do-well wannabe musician and she’s a struggling single mom who keeps marrying the wrong man as she tries to better herself while putting food on the table. It’s hard to decide which one of them gives the more soul-baring performance.
There is not a false note anywhere. Linklater’s script is flawless, with dialog by turns sad and funny and sometimes dull, just like real life. The soundtrack is a mix of songs we’ve all heard before, just like everyone has. Over and over we see that our lives are not all so different one from another, yet one or two little tweaks here and there can make or break us: A poor marriage, a bad job decision, and the train is derailed. Then it’s over. As Arquette bemoans in one of her finest scenes, “I thought there’d be more.”
This is a movie that demands — and deserves– repeated viewings. Personally, I can’t wait.
— Andrea Rouda
MyLittleBird contributor Andrea Rouda blogs at “Call Me Madcap.”