Boyhood Movie Review
Boyhood is one of the frontrunners for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards. Boyhood has also found itself on countless Top 10 lists. But Boyhood is, in fact, extremely overrated, a product of its own buzz, a temple to overinflated expectations that few are willing to pronounce as falsity.
Boyhood is merely an experiment--a valiant one, and one not without merit, but an experiment nonetheless--that, as anything else, would be described as an overly long, somewhat plodding and occasionally aimless drama.
The experiment--perhaps not quite a gimmick, but a gimmicky experiment--is that the movie was shot for an 11-year period, cataloguing the real growth of actor Ellar Coltrane as he grows from a boy to an 18-year-old college student--and of those around him. The dedication by writer/director Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise), and the cast and crew who had to wait over a decade to see their work put to screen, is impressive beyond belief. And the outcome, clearly, has resonated with both critics and audiences alike, who see this dedication as something more than its parts suggest.
There is plenty to like with Boyhood. There is something slightly magical about watching Ellar Coltrane grow up on screen, even if his character becomes an odd, increasingly annoying duck. Ethan Hawke, even though he shows up only in quick bursts, injects some much needed energy into the story. And the writing, both casual and calculated, harkens, at least to some extent, the quality you’ve come to expect from Linklater.
But take away the gimmick--and I realize that the word “gimmick” is offensive to some--of filming the movie over a period of 11 years and you’re left with a three-hour-long drama that depicts various stages of adolescence. The movie drags for long stretches, as several of these stages aren’t particularly interesting on their own. That doesn’t always hold true; the segment involving the alcoholic stepdad is somewhat enthralling, even if the actual situation is a bit forced and not particularly well acted. There are other segments that work as well, but there are just as many that don’t. As the boy grows older, too, Coltrane’s dialogue degrades; as grounded as Linklater intends Boyhood to be, he betrays such intentions with writing that sounds less realistic and more like something made for the movies.
In the end, Boyhood is a fiction made over the course of 11 years. The fact that the cast, and most notably Ellar Coltrane, remains the same throughout is impressive, though hardly revolutionary. Remove that aspect of the production and you’re left with an overly long drama where not a lot happens for long stretches of time. Boyhood is a worthwhile experiment, but to value it as anything more than that is to give in to the false buzz of its masterhood.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.