Director Richard Linklater's new film, "Boyhood," is a huge leap of faith that lands in all the right places. Employing a completely unique concept in filmmaking, he shoots the film over the course of 12 years with the same actors. The end result is a thoroughly remarkable story about people who seem so real, it's as though they're family.
The film begins by introducing us to the 6-year-old Mason (Ellar Coltrane). His parents, Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke) are divorced. Mason, Olivia and his older sister, Samantha (Linklater's daughter Lorelei), are in the middle of moving to Houston, begrudgingly leaving all that's familiar behind so that Mom can attend college.
Mason Sr. is a less motivated wannabe musician who proudly drives a GTO and is just getting by financially. But he's a loving dad who genuinely wants to be, and is, a part of his children's lives. He has a knack for popping out words of wisdom like gumballs to his attentive kids who questionably savor the ideology.
Approximately every 10 minutes "Boyhood" moves chronologically onto another chapter in the family's life. Olivia becomes a professor and marries her mentor, and all of them suffer as he sinks into alcoholic rages. Displaying a penchant for losers, Olivia marries husband No. 3, an Iraqi War veteran who also turns out to be an angry drinker. But Mason manages to rise above the stepdad adversities with the help of parents who have their children's best interest at heart.
"Boyhood" is a bit like sitting on the sofa and watching home movies. As Mason navigates the changes in his life, we're right on board. The events that occur between 2002 and 2013 affected all of us, and through Mason's eyes we can reminisce about the good and the bad.
There are a couple of hilarious scenes presumably shot in 2008. Mason Sr. is trying to explain the facts of life to Samantha and Mason over lunch at a restaurant. When he discovers that Samantha has a boyfriend he asks her if she's aware of what happened to Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter. Afterward, they're canvassing a neighborhood to ask homeowners if they can put an Obama sign on their lawn when one man makes it quite clear that it is not OK to do so. The entire audience broke into laughter.
Linklater has created an unprecedented masterpiece in 39 days (actors showing up once a year) in a total of 143 scenes. It's a risky endeavor that pays off big time. Even the casting had to be tricky but, luckily, it was pure perfection. Note: Midway through filming, his daughter, Lorelei, lost interest in the project and wanted her character killed off.
"Boyhood" is a brilliant reflection of our culture that draws you in and never lets go. In it, life happens ... to Mason, Olivia, Samantha, Mason Sr. and to you and me.
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