Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is such a Drag
2014 Film Forgets the Boy in Boyhood
Studio : IFC Films, Poster
Boyhood took 12 years to make. Praise is certainly warranted for Richard Linklater and a cast in for the long haul. Unfortunately, the film leaves the viewer feeling as though they’ve also surrendered a decade. The temperament of the title character doing most of the damage.
Despite being raised by a single mom, Mason was not a really a mama’s boy. On the other hand, aspects of his character seem like an idealized version of all a mother could hope for.
Unfortunately, this is supposed to be about a boy. So when a Mrs. Robinson type character offers him a “ride to college,” he’s above it all. So Mason conveys his signature look down to pass judgement on the silliness of the world.
Sorry, a journey is actually required of real boys (and men for that manner). Even so, the film does start out in a manner befitting a boy. “Why did you stuff rocks in Mrs. Butler’s pencil sharpener,” Patricia Arquette implores as Mason’s mom.
“I thought if it could sharpen pencils, it could sharpen rocks, and I could use them for my arrowhead collection,” Mason reasons.
Now, that’s how a kid thinks. Boys also fight with their sisters, look at slightly dressed girls in magazines and whine when their father forces them to bowl without bumpers. “Life doesn’t come with bumpers,” his dad (Ethan Hawke) tries to instruct him.
Mason does have a journey, though and a clue comes early on how annoying it will be. Explaining why several homework assignments were found in his bag, it begins. “She didn’t ask for them,” Mason tells mom.
Eventually everything is open to interpretation, and a shortage of answers envelopes the world in monotony. But tragedy is just fine with Mason.
His drunken stepfather has cordoned off four kids in a terrifying grasp for control, and Mason doesn’t even exhibit a pulse. Somehow, the sentiment is contagious, and the comatose reaction among his siblings begs someone to utter, “Could you pass the Quaaludes?”
Have we forgotten, this is Boyhood. He’s supposed to be completely ill prepared for such a trauma. But Mom gets the message and makes for the exit.
Dad doesn’t help the movie either, and if his character made a sound, nails screeching across a blackboard would be it. Ethan Hawke is a complete caricature in playing the “cool dad,” who leaves something to be desired of.
Hawke dabbles in music while meandering in search of a meaningful way of life. So he was off for Alaska when fatherhood initially smothered him and has plenty of stock insights. “I know what this party is. The Parents are out of town, right? Somebody’s uh, scored a keg, right…You guys are gonna have a good time, trash the whole house…Right? Am I right,” Hawke grills his daughter.
So Dad went to junior high and knows the drill. How cool is Mason for having a dad who understands.
Sort of a screech, but hitting the wonder years, the fingernails come flying out. “So are you going to Shauna’s party next weekend,” his classmate Jill asks.
“I think I heard about it. I’m not really sure, though,” Mason is noncommittal.
This being eighth grade, Mason will be too be busy reading Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut. He’s not swayed much either when Jill informs him that LeeAnn has a crush on him, and she will be there.
"Okay,” is all he can muster in providing an RSVP. But that’s what a mother would want. A 13 year old who’s discerning and doesn’t get ahead of himself on matters as trivial as a crush.
Excuse me, the film is not called motherhood. So can’t this kid show a hint of the thermal nuclear explosion that rages below and supersedes the cool rationality he exudes?
Then we get a scene from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure to reinforce our protagonist’s preeminence. “Man, if you’re too chicken shit to even have a beer, I know for a fact that you have never gotten any pussy,” Charlie boasts puts down Mason’s classmate.
He then attacks Mason’s claim that he did have a girlfriend in Houston. “Let me guess – you were pulling all kinds of ass back home, but once you got down here…lefty.”
Enough, “dudes” and “man’s” littering the bravado, we must painfully endure another caricature just to reassure that Mason doesn’t play. But high school begins to focus his inclinations toward photography.
Left alone in the dark to ponder, his teacher calls him on it. While praising Mason on his unique prospective, Mr. Turlington counsels Mason on taking care of the less than desirable details that are necessary for success. “The world is too competitive. There are too many talented people willing to work hard, and a butt-load of morons who are talented and more than willing to surpass you. Some of them are in there completing their assignments, and you’re in here,” Turington lectures. “Are you special?”
The speech may be a little premature for high school. On the other hand, Mason has a very good answer when Turlington asks, what he brings that nobody else does? “That’s what I’m trying to find out,” retorts Mason.
Of course, if the wisdom came from someone who wasn’t completely devoid of life and passion, you could get behind him. That said, it’s easy to take the side of his second drunken stepfather when he gets all up in Mason’s grill. “Stop mumbling! You know speak up. I can’t understand a word comin outta your mouth. It’s just like uh, uhh, nuhh. I ask you questions and you just…”
Thank you Jim.
Even so, Mason manages to get a girl to like him – even though he whines his way through all the people who control him. “I just wanna be able to do anything I want, because it makes me feel alive. As opposed to giving me the appearance of normality,” Mason drones
But Sheena brings perspective to his endless introspection. “Whatever that means,” she replies playfully.
Maybe there’s hope for Mason and the last 30 minutes of this odyssey. Uh – no chance as they head off to Mason’s college. “What are we doing here at three in the morning,” Mason asks as they frequent a late night diner.
Gee, could it be that you’re young, and that’s what you’re supposed to do when you embark on the adventure of your life. Of course, he was really posing a bigger question. “Doesn’t it seem a little overwhelming? I mean college. I like the idea of being away from home and gaining skills and getting better at photography." Mason poses. "I just don’t know, I’m not counting on it being some big transformative experience.”
Once again, Sheena tries to rescue us with some sanity. “I don’t think it’s that transformative. I just see it as the next step.” Who is this girl, and why didn’t they make the movie about her.
The film at least gives us the satisfaction of her breaking it off. “You know it’s kind of a relief not to have to be around someone so gloomy all the time. The world’s not so horrible. Not everything’s some big conspiracy against humanity.”
Thank you so much Sheena.
But Mason doesn’t spare us. “She wasn’t a silly girl. I thought she was a serious person,” he laments to his Dad.
A mother’s footprints all over such a statement, fatherhood doesn’t do us any better. “Women are never satisfied. They’re always looking to trade up, and that’s what happened to you my fine feathered friend,” says Hawke
However Dad’s not a total douche. “You are responsible for you, not your girlfriend, not your mom, not me, but you. And if you take care of you, you will be amazed at how much girls like Sheena start lining up.”
Of course Mason discounts the sound advice, and pains with his ruminations. “Still, what’s the point,” he implores.
Is this movie called Boyhood or Manhood? I mean any 18 year old asking that question should just give up now rather than waiting to make sense of subsisting into middle age and beyond.
Nonetheless, we get some apple pie to end the movie with Mason finding a girl of his ilk who takes in the moment. “I’m kinda thinking, it’s the other way around. You know, like the moment seizes us,” gleans the wide eyed coed.
Fine, just let them have each other - as long as we never have to see either of them ever again.
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