By Sam Ozer-Staton // Staff Writer
“I just thought there would be more.” It is the most poignant moment in the entire film: (or, more appropriately, a genuinely powerful driving scene through the breathtaking tableau of West Texas set to the tear-jerker “Hero” by Family of the Year) a tearful Olivia (Patricia Arquette) laments as her son Mason (Ellar Coltrane) packs his belongings for the journey to college.
Unfortunately, the quote is not only a rather bleak commentary on the anticlimactic nature of life, but it is also how I feel about “Boyhood”, director Richard Linklater’s critically acclaimed summer indie flick and ostensible magnum opus.
The film is an indisputably impressive cinematic feat—it was filmed in segments over a 12 year period, so audiences get to watch a young Texas family, particularly son Mason, grow up on screen.
However, we’ve come to expect a lot from Richard Linklater; he the auteur of classics like “Dazed and Confused”, “School of Rock”, and the Before Sunrise trilogy, is known for snappy dialogue and empathetic characters.
Films like “Slacker” and “Dazed and Confused” are remarkably perceptive and insightful; they feature a wide breadth of diverse characters often with hilarious perspectives that stray from the conventional notion of climax (many of the ones I just mentioned take place in less than a single day and ebb and flow lazily without much happening in the traditional sense).
True to form, “Boyhood” bucks the trend when it comes to plot, but gets lost in its many scenes. The film lacks the engaging, complex dialogue we’ve come to expect.
It force-feeds nostalgia, conjuring intentionally evocative moments and themes every five minutes. Linklater successfully draws upon the collective memories of today’s college-age generation, weaving Gryffindor scarf-clad Potterheads, Soulja Boy samples and Obamania ’08 into many vignettes. Because such things, the film holds a special place in the heart of millennials.
Hawke delivers a great performance and Arquette improves as the film goes on. However, what “Boyhood” gains in its quest to accurately reflect culture, it loses twofold due to the lack of a relatable protagonist.
While nearly all Linklater movies are fascinated with the concept of “the outsider” and manage to capture a certain rebellious spirit and tone, Mason’s detachment during adolescence makes it particularly hard for viewers to identify with him. Though ultimately a likable figure, Mason possesses a general apathy that is emblematic of the movie’s lack of direction.
“Boyhood” tries to teach us that there is something beautiful about the everyday minutiae, something profound in the little moments. I couldn’t agree more, but Boyhood overdoes it. The film ends with Mason hiking through stunning Big Bend National Park on his first day of college with some conveniently gorgeous people he just met with whom he does shrooms. In response to one girl’s clichéd comment that, “the moment seizes us,” Mason replies, “It’s always right now.” Well, Mr. Linklater, I just thought there would be more.