March 11, 2015
Family Film Blogging (Oscar Edition): Boyhood
Posted by Christine Hurt

So, those who saw my FB rants know that I was stuck in airports two days this week.  I tried to get some work done, but I'm also not that serious, so I downloaded a movie.  I chose a movie that I wanted to see, but wasn't particularly fun for the whole family:  Boyhood.  Running time was 2:46, which helped to pass the time.

As almost everyone knows now, Boyhood was shot over twelve years, so you see the characters age in front of the camera.  The film is really a series of scenes from twelve different years of a family's life, focusing on Mason (Ellar Coltrane), who ends the movie graduating from high school and going to college.  Physically and emotionally, he ages the most of anyone on-screen.  He and his extraordinarily self-centered and bossy sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), live with their single mother, Olivia (Patricia Arquette).  In the second year of the movie, their dad Mason, Sr. (Ethan Hawke) shows up and become reintroduced into their lives.  By the end of the movie, Mason has moved from a stoner would-be musician less-than-part-time dad to an actuary dad who drives a minivan with his new wife and baby and is a more-than-part-time dad.  But, he is still less than perfectly reliable.  Samantha is still self-centered and bossy, and Olivia is still utterly unappreciated by her children, though those around her often comment on the impact she has had on others and how well she has raised her children.

The scenes are fourteen mini-movies of Mason's childhood, and they aren't wholly connected.  We meet characters in one year that are gone the next and never spoken of again, including stepfathers, stepsiblings, and friends.  The movie opens in an unnamed Texas city, but Olivia's family moves first to Houston and then to San Marcos.  If you are from Texas, the movie is quite a treat, with hints to tell those in the know where scenes are filmed and places characters go.  In Houston, the family gets a mean, drunk stepfather and in San Marcos the family gets a sullen, drunk stepfather.  The children also get a loving stepmother and step-grandparents, who come with a birthday gun and a birthday bible.  Mason has friends, bullies, and girlfriends that pop up in one year and disappear.  Surprisingly given the drunk stepfathers, Mason and his sister also spend their early (and later) years drinking and smoking pot with permission from their parents.  But, Mason pulls it together in the last two years and goes off to college (Sul Ross in Alpine).

If you enjoyed Slacker and Dazed and Confused, then you'll love Boyhood.  I tried to think of it as a sequel to Dazed:  if the characters there had skipped a decade or so and had kids, they could have been Olivia and Mason, Sr.  What would there kids be like?  I think Mason and Samantha.  Mason is very much like the main character in Dazed.  All the grown-ups are nagging him to have a work ethic, but he doesn't see what a work ethic has done for his mom.  He is somehow on a superior philosophical plane that separates him from others, whether they are schoolmates, teachers or bosses.  He listens to his dad, but that's about it.  He reaches his pinnacle and finds his people on move-in day at college.  They go on a vision hike ('shrooms and all) to Big Bend and talk about how you don't seize the day, the day seizes you.

So, I'll be a weirdo.  I know everyone loves this movie, and it is definitely a great moviemaker's movie.  A lot of references to current events remind us of the passage of time, as well as the aging of the actors.  The novelty of having your actors age alone is worth watching the movie.  I've been thinking of certain scenes since I saw it, and definitely the scenes feel very real.  But I am not and have never been an ambivalent, wishy-washy man-boy.  I'm not a fan of Hamlet, or Holden Caulfield or Mason.  I don't have a romantic notion of him and his place in life.  I love boys -- I have two of them.  But in my movie, Mason would come to appreciate his mother (and his stepmother) and not plan to cruise through college (on his not-so-rich parents' dime) going to class when he feels like it. 

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