Oscars 2015 Best Picture Nominee Review #3: BOYHOOD | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Oscars 2015 Best Picture Nominee Review #3: BOYHOOD

BOYHOOD is poignant, if lengthy coming-of-age drama that doesn't quite justified its nearly three-hour running time.

Over the last fifteen years, writer-director Richard Linklater has explored characters going through the passage of time successfully in his acclaimed BEFORE trilogy starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, beginning with BEFORE SUNRISE (1995), BEFORE SUNSET (2004) and BEFORE MIDNIGHT (2013). In BOYHOOD, Linklater returns to the similar territory except this time, he pulls off an ambitious feat with a fresh approach of dramatic storytelling method. More on that later.


BOYHOOD begins with Mason (Ellar Coltrane) at the age of six, who lives with his divorced mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and his older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, Richard's real-life daughter). Their dad, Mason, Sr. (Ethan Hawke) has recently returned to their home state of Texas and wanted to reconcile with his kids. Meanwhile, Olivia is struggling to make ends meet and decides to move to Houston with Mason and Samantha so she can go to a college and earns a degree. Throughout the course of the period, we see Mason growing up from a young kid to a 18-year-old college student while going through different phases of life, including living with different stepparents.

Shot in just 39 days over the course of 12 years, BOYHOOD offers one-of-a-kind cinematic experience that has never been done or seen before in a feature filmmaking. The greatest hook of all is the use of the same actors as we literally watch them mature and going through physical changes from year after year. Such unusual technique is no doubt a landmark achievement for Richard Linklater, who is daring enough not to use the conventional method by employing different actors to perform different ages or old age makeup techniques whatsoever.

Beyond the extraordinary concept, Linklater doesn't rely on a standard Hollywood coming-of-age story that usually comes with a series of melodramatic moments. Instead, Linklater let his movie unfolds in a more naturalistic manner of an everyday life. At least for the first 90 minutes or so, the movie is impressive enough to watch for, particularly when Linklater focuses on Mason's highs and lows during his childhood and adolescent experiences.

Ellar Coltrane delivers a soulful, yet terrifically low-key performance as the movie's main protagonist, Mason. His acting performance is best seen during his childhood and adolescent era. Lorelei Linklater is equally captivating as Mason's bratty older sister, Samantha. As for the rest of the actors, Ethan Hawke gives a solid support as Mason's long-absent father who is first depicted as a hipster and a struggling musician before he gradually matured into a more responsible family man. Whether watching him giving a lecture about sex education to the embarrassed-looking Samantha or sharing his passion for the Beatles' solo songs with Mason, Hawke is simply fantastic. But the best scene-stealer of all is Patricia Arquette in her remarkable and award-worthy portrayal as Olivia, a hardworking single mother who does everything she can within her limit to support her two children from school to college, while enduring poor life decisions with two failed relationships (Marco Perella and Brad Hawkins).

The heated argument when Olivia's alcoholic second husband, Professor Bill Welbrock (Marco Perella) starts losing his temper in front of her and her children at the dinner table.

As much as I enjoyed Ellar Coltrane's wonderful performance as Mason, his performance is surprisingly inconsistent when he grows into a sullen-looking teenager experiencing his life during college. On top of that, the second half of the movie which revolves around Mason's college era feels strangely bland and monotonous. While I understand Linklater's obvious intention to play his movie like a real-life experience complete with expected scenes of mundane situations, the subsequent storyline grows a little too dull and uninteresting as it goes.


Despite the near-universal acclaim from critics as well as numerous awards and recognition so far, BOYHOOD isn't as great as I hoped for. But for all the erratic and lengthy pace with some of the scenes that should have been either trimmed or improved, BOYHOOD remains a rewarding experience worth watching at least for once.

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